Radbourne Walk . . . How it all began
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.”
In November 2013 Christina Fox came to me with an idea to improve the path that runs beside the Allotments. I will let her explain:
How it all began . . .
Greater than the sum of their parts.
If you try neat gin it's not that great, neither is tonic water. But, when you put the two together you have a winner. Sometimes ideas are like that. One on its own won't go anywhere - but put two discoveries together and you might have something special.
Inspiring moment No 1...
Back in August I was travelling on the London Underground. People often leave their newspapers behind - so I reached over an grabbed an abandoned paper to read. Flicking through the pages I spotted the article below. It was the photos that struck me. The "before" and "after" shots are amazing it is incredible what a group of people can do once they get a few hanging baskets, tubs and some flowers.
Alongside our allotment site is an abandoned pathway - if only we could do something to spruce it up. But, we didn't know who was responsible for it.
Inspiring moment No 2...
Some of us had been looking into the history of our allotment site and digging up old maps. So, I checked with the land registry to see what information they had on our site. I was surprised to see that the pathway between our fence and the homeowners garden fence is part of the allotment land. That was a big surprise.
We have been moving towards self management of our plots. So, that kinda means we will have to look after the pathway too.
Put these two bits of information together and you have your proverbial gin and tonic - of the horticultural variety.
The footpath has been in a state of neglect for many years. But, it is a right of way and is frequently used by local people.
We heard one little boy ask his dad "are we in the countryside now?" as they walked down the path.
With some care and attention it could be a real asset to the local wildlife and a lovely country walk in an urban area. It provides a great opportunity for the newly formed Ealing Dean Allotment Society (EDAS) to highlight their interest in wildlife and horticulture. The path was muddy and neglected but we found that there was tarmac along the whole stretch of the path.
The photos show how the path was in he winter of 2013/14