MORE than 40 city council-owned allotments across Leicester remained open throughout the coronavirus lockdown and provided residents with much-needed outdoor exercise, home-grown produce and a valuable respite from lockdown conditions.
This week a national campaign is being run to highlight the important role allotments can play in people’s physical and mental wellbeing, as well as being a source of nutritious, wholesome fruit and vegetables.
National Allotment Week takes place from August 10-16, and is a reminder of how important allotments are in communities.
More than 3,100 plots are regularly used at council-owned allotments in over 40 sites across the city, including both society sites and individual lets, producing a huge range of seasonal fresh food.
Interest in allotments has risen sharply in during the COVID-19 lockdown. Figures released this week by the National Allotment Society (NAS) reveal that 40 percent of English councils that responded to a survey reported a increase in applications to join waiting lists during April, with one council in Lancashire reporting a 300 percent increase.
Leicester deputy city mayor for environment and transportation, Cllr Adam Clarke, said: “It is no surprise that there’s been a surge of interest among people wanting to grow their own food at a time when people are becoming more aware of where and how their food is produced.
“The lockdown restrictions have also helped people to think about being self-sufficient, and with an estimated one in eight of the UKs population having no access to a garden, allotments have provided a lifeline to outdoor exercise, good mental and physical wellbeing, and a community spirit.
“Healthy, fresh, allotment produce involves no plastic packaging, no food miles and is often grown using minimal or no pesticides. The soil in allotments tend to contain more worms and a higher carbon content, which in turn helps to tackle climate change, and allotments also provide valuable havens for local wildlife.
“An allotment plot is great for social-distanced, healthy activity that comes with the reward of affordable, fresh food.”
Allotment rents are around £25 on average per plot per year, although there can be long waiting lists for the most popular sites. In all 43 sites are self-managed by societies on 20 year leases with 11 mostly smaller sites directly let by the council.
Leicester City Council’s Get Growing Grant scheme is a way to help local allotment projects or groups, by making £1,000 available in each ward across the city.
Other local initiatives have also been run to help people of all ages enjoy the city’s allotments.
One such scheme at Evington Hilltop allotments has benefitted from a National Lottery Awards for All Grant and a small grant to help the allotment’s communal nature area.
The communal area is designed for older plot holders who might not be able to keep a plot going due to ill-health to remain part of the allotment community and even to pass on some of their horticultural wisdom to younger growers.
To find out more about renting an allotment, visit the allotments page on our website.
Photo credit: Ben Woods