Radbourne Walk - April work day
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.”
There is always a worry, when you ask for volunteers, that the weather will dampen their enthusiam.
Maybe it was the chance to improve the environment, good company or the promise of cake. But, a little bit of rain didn't put off our volunteers.
The plan is to keep the native wildflowers at the back of the path and dig over the front edge nearest the path. This keeps the nettles for our caterpillars. But stops it being a prickly nuicance to anyone walking down the path. Then we'll re-seed the front edge with wildlife friendly plants and a few crowd pleasers.
Anything we clear will be composted and re-used.
Ealing Councillor John Cowing (above in blue) came along to give us a hand too. He got stuck in, clearing weeds, digging and creating the loggery. In fact the council has been very supportive of our plans for Radbourne Walk. We presented our ideas at the last Walpole Ward Forum to John and fellow councillors Ann Chapman and Ashok Kapoor. They liked the idea so much that we have been offered money for tools and plants. Plus extra help via the community payback scheme.
We also created another loggery.
First - you have to dig a deep hole...
We already had some nice rotting wood to fill in the hole. But, we filled in the smaller gaps using some of the freshly cut logs we had too.
Then we raked back the soil to bury as much of the logs as possible. This will help them to rot - just what a Stag beetle larvae loves.
It was also Simon's Birthday. So, that means another excuse to eat cake.
...and a nice cup of tea.
After tea and cake it was time to do some more work. Below is Paul removing the Spanish Bluebells. We need to remove some of the Spanish Bluebells because they will cross pollinate our natives. If that happens we'll end up with a hybrid version.
We've bought some English bluebells and snowdrops in the green. This gives them a good start. You can plant snowdrop bulbs later in the year - but they can be prone to drying out and are less likely to thrive. Planting them with their leaves 'in the green' gives them a better start.
Unfortunately it also means they won't flower this year. But, we should get a lovely flush of flowers next spring.
Below is Christine (left), me in the middle and Mary (right) with our first tray of snowdrops. Then its heads down and trowels at the ready.
Once again - many thanks to everyone who turned up to help. Whether you did a couple of hours or stayed all day - we really appreciate your help.
If you'd like to get involved the next workday is Saturday 3rd May at 10.00.