Volunteer Day - 6th December 2014
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.”
So my alarn goes off at 8.00 on Saturday morning and any sensible person would have rolled over and gone back to sleep. But I drag myself out of bed and look out the window....all I can see is frost.
Last Saturday was another one of our volunteer gardening days. Some of the people who turn up are plot holders, many are on the waiting list for a plot and a few are local Ealing residents. We always have a huge amount of work to do on the site and we couldn't have gotten this far without the help of volunteers. This session was about clearing the leaves from the Radbourne Walk. If we leave the leaves on the path they eventually turn to mud and make the path slippery in the rain.
The main worry with the volunteer days is knowing how many people will turn up. But, I shouldn't have worried there were twelve of us brave enough to face the cold and get stuck in. So, we cleared all the leaves from the path and had a conveyer belt of people with wheel barrows moving the leaves to our compost bins.
The light was lovely
Allotment gardeners are good recyclers - nothing gets wasted. The leaves will make lovely leaf mould that we can put back on the soil as a mulch. The compost bins will also act as good habitats for a wide variety of critters over the winter.
At the start of the morning we were all cold - but once we'd filled a couple of wheel barrows we soon warmed up. Then fairly soon it was time for tea. Christine provided lovely lemon drizzle cake and flapjacks and I brought chocolate brownies.
But a big thank you to Simon (below) and Yasmin who kept the hot water topped up for tea and coffee and then provided soup for lunch.
We would also like to thank everyone who turned up to help out. We hope you enjoyed the morning. Your efforts are very much appreciated by those of us on the Ealing Dean Allotment Committee but, also by the people who use the Radbourne Walk on a regular basis.
Many thanks to:- Celia, Christine, Dominic, Nicola, Paul, Peter, Shantilal, Simon, Simon, Susannah and Vanessa.
With the wood chips spread out to make the place look neat and tidy - time to go home.
If you'd like to get involved you'd be very welcome to join us. Our next volunteer gardening day will be on Saturday 7th February 2015.
Chair: Ealing Dean Allotment Society.