The Potager Plot

London's oldest surviving allotment is facing the threat of being built on thanks to plans by its landlord to construct a new housing development on part of the allotment site. 

We desperately need to raise funds to pay for legal and specialist advice to help save our much loved allotments. 
If you can spare just a few pound we would be very grateful for your help and support.

 

https://www.gofundme.com/ealingdean

In early September 2016 the charity, Pathways, contacted plotholders at Northfield Allotments in Ealing to announce its proposal to build on 10% of the allotments. The development would include a five to six story block of social housing and four houses for sale to help fund the development.

Northfield Allotments are the oldest allotments in London. They were given by the Bishop of London to the people of Ealing in 1832, and are held as a permanent endowment. The charity Pathways is our landlord and the site is managed by a committee of seven plotholders. There are 141 plots.

OUR COMMUNITY

The plotholders are a diverse range of ages and nationalities. Twenty nine of our plotholders live in flats – this is their only garden. We have around 50 children who have a safe place to play and learn about fruit and veg and get a chance to see tadpoles, stag beetles, bats and hedgehogs.
There are more than 25 pensioners who have a place to grow their own food and there is always company, someone to talk to. You are never alone when you have an allotment. People are friendly here and we share seedlings and produce.

We have counted 27 different nationalities – the only qualification to getting a plot is a love of gardening and the patience to wait on our waiting list (currently 72 people).

OUR WILDLIFE

The hedgerow around the site is around 900m long and has been designated, by Ealing Borough council, a SINC - Site of Interest for Nature Conservation. It is an important and safe habitat for our hedgehogs, many nesting birds and insects. The allotments are a habitat for stag beetles, which are endangered and protected. With perfect timing the many visitors to our Halloween open day saw our bats flying around the site catching night flying insects.

NO CHOICE?

On the 25th September at a special general meeting, the plotholders unanimously voted to oppose Pathways’ plans to concrete over the allotments.
We understand that social housing is important – but so are green open spaces. It shouldn’t have to be a choice of one or the other. We believe Pathways’ trustees have not fully considered alternatives to their proposal to ‘temporarily’ move 18 residents into what will be a permanent development on the allotments.

We believe a permanent endowment should be permanent.

OUR CONCERN

The original allotments were much larger than they are today: 60% of the allotments were lost in the 1970s due to compulsory purchase by the council and building by Pathways. Our concern is that if planning permission is granted this time around it will be easier to lose more allotment land in the future as the pressure for housing so close to a Crossrail station increases.

When we lose green space we never get it back.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

  • Please write to your local councillors to let them know what you think of the proposal.
  • Write to the Ealing Gazette and Ealing and Northfield forums.
  • Sign up for our newsletter to keep up to date with what is going on.
  • We need specialist help, especially once the plans are submitted to Ealing Council. This will cost money. So, please help by donating whatever you can to our fighting fund.

Please help us protect the allotments for another 184 years.

Many thanks for all your help and support.

The Ealing Dean Allotment Society.

I’m going to leave the final word to Fran, one of our plotholders (who will lose her plot if the development goes ahead)…

“My allotment means a lot to me - we live in a third floor social housing flat with no access to a garden of our own. In 18 months my daughter and I have transformed the plot from weeds and brambles to our own little patch of heaven and my daughter has learned so much she never would have been able to before, from where our food comes from to the lifecycle of the frog - and she now wants to be a gardener when she grows up.”


A picture of the potager during the open day, with the chance sit and look at the plants around
A potager is a French term for an ornamental vegetable or kitchen garden.  The historical design precedent is from the Gardens of the French Renaissance and Baroque Garden à la française eras.  Often flowers (edible and non-edible) and herbs are planted with the vegetables to enhance the garden's beauty.  The goal is to make the function of providing food aesthetically joyful.

In November 2015, Christina Fox (Chair of Ealing Dean Allotments) upgraded her half plot into a full plot.  Christina came up with the idea to use half of her new plot as a feature area for the 2016 Open Day and create a community site for volunteers who didn’t have a plot of their own.

Five people from the allotment waiting list volunteered to work on the Potager plot to gain vital experience and understand the basics of managing an allotment.

Planning sessions helped formulate the layout of the Potager and decisions on where the beds were to be placed.  The volunteers also listed the types of flowers and vegetables they intended to grow. 

With just seven months before the open day, work started on clearing the site of potatoes, chickweed, grass and thistles.  And then layout out the design of the plot with various beds and borders between:

A photo of the plot being divided between various sections Another photo showing the completed layout, before any planting
 

An old shed was moved from elsewhere on the allotment and over the course of six months the shed had a new base, roof, window and a summer house makeover inside and out to transform it into a relaxing oasis.  It now faces into the potager to ensure people can enjoy the fruits of their labour.

A picture of the shed in its original state before being refurbished A picture of the shed after being refurbished with a new roof, floor and repainted

Following several months of seedlings growing on shelves at home and poly-tunnels at the allotment, April marked the start of planting in the beds.  Early planting in the beds included rhubarb, sweet peas, runner beans, cosmos, strawberries, artichokes, courgettes and leeks.

As the weeks quickly followed, more and more plants migrated from the poly-tunnel to the ground along with seed sowing directly into the beds.  These included peas, beetroot, night stocks, kale and Nigella's.

The potager is now home to over 35 different types of fruit, vegetables and flowers.

The Open Day: On 25 June, the Potager was one of the highlights of the open day.  Visitors and fellow allotment holders flocked to see what had been achieved in just a few short months.  Some of the first visitors to the site included the local MP, Rupa Huq along with local councillors, teachers from local schools/nursery and visitors from as far afield as Ascot, Windsor & Maidenhead who had made the special trip for the Open Day.

A picture of the potager during the open day, with the chance sit and look at the plants around
 

By the end of the day, over 150 people had visited the potager with Nolan O'Connor, Suzannah Nichols and Christina Fox giving guided tours and history behind the potager.

 

Nolan O’Connor