Allotments – Again

This has to be one of my most frequently-asked of all frequently-asked questions (along with cleaners and wedding venues…) “How can I get my green fingers on an allotment?”

To look at last week’s Greenwich Time’s double spread, you’d think all you’d have to do is call up the nice people at the council and arrange for a viewing so you could take your pick from the array of available plots.

Quite why they spend two pages telling you of the joys of allotmenteering when there aren’t any patches of soil available in the entire borough is a mystery to me. It only makes the council look bad for having sold them all off and insensitive for rubbing our noses in it.

The Council website reiterates a sorry tale for anyone living in Greenwich town centre. Not only are the very few sites totally full, but the waiting lists are so long they’ve been closed. And don’t even think about the Prior Street Allotments on the old railway line – privately managed and with the Waiting List of Doom.

Sadly Phantoms don’t get any favours – I’m hanging about, spectral spade in phantom paw with the rest of you.

There are one or two sites where you can go on the waiting list – but they’re way out in the further reaches of the borough – and at some point you have to ask yourself how far you’re prepared to (wait) to travel for a few spuds.

If you look at an old map from the turn of the last century, much of East Greenwich and the Peninsula were given over to allotment gardens, now lost to Progress.

I have wondered to myself if the council have no intention of doing anything with the old hospital site for a year or so, whether they could do some kind of short-let thing. The ground’s piss-poor but keen gardeners have a way – besides surely the council has access to a load of compost from our organic bins…

No, I’m not holding my breath either.

There are plot share schemes. I have my reservations about them, personally, but if you’re desperate, it’s worth a try. The most local one I know of is Transition Westcombe’s Patch Match programme – and you will probably meet some interesting folk along the way.

In the meanwhile, if you’re up the Deptford end of Greenwich, and you have a few hours on your hands, you might be interested in a different thing entirely.

Jonathan is a teacher at the Nursery at Grinling Gibbons Primary in Deptford. For the last two years they’ve run a rather splendid growing/allotment project in the spring/summer where the children have planted, grown and eaten a variety of vegetables between April and July. But he has a problem.

“The person who assisted us, a gardener, has gone AWOL and I could really use the assistance of someone with some experience of growing veggies etc. who wouldn’t mind spending an hour or two a week working with myself and some great 3-5 year olds,” he tells me.

“The upside is the chance to grow and eat your own produce or just to help out on a valuable project educating young children that a) all food doesn’t come from the supermarket and b) cooking and eating your own veg is great!”

He doesn’t tell me a downside, but I can guess. You’ll probably need to be police-cleared to the Nth degree. But if you enjoy getting soil under your nails, find the company of little children pleasurable and are keen to eat tasty school-grown veg, maybe the CRB check wouldn’t be so arduous after all…

Happy Waiting Lists, folks.

14 Comments to “Allotments – Again”

  1. Paul T says:

    Phant, just in case you're watching comments but not email.

    Greenwich Hospital are appealing the rejection of the Market Scheme.

    back to battle stations, folks.

  2. Mary says:

    Couple of points on allotments – when Alan was alive we had one up at Woodlands Farm, and that might be am option worth exploring. Also at one time there were many many many unused sites in the east of the borough. However nearer home there are some groups who are hoping to experiment with growing vegetables in boxes on pieces of land which may be unsuitable otherwise. I'm always happy to put people in touch where I can

  3. Jonathan says:

    Hello Phantom.

    Just to put the mind at ease for anyone interested in helping my allotment project, all the CRB stuff would be sorted out by the school and there isn't any cost for anyone who wanted to volunteer. You just have to provide some ID to school and not be a criminal! :-)

    It's a great project and worth a few hours of someone's time.

    Failing that, has anyone got any good local organisations to go to who may be able to source volunteers?

  4. Deptford dame says:

    Jonathan – check out the Landshare website run by channel 4, for volunteers in the area. There's also a new website called project dirt which is aimed at all kinds of gardening/food growing/recycling and green-type endeavours, to bring people and projects together. Finally if you are free on Thursday, there's the first 'Deptford green drinks' being held upstairs in the Royal George on Tanners Hill from 7.30pm

  5. Jonathan says:

    That's really useful info Dame. What are the Deptford green drinks about?

  6. Nic and Cam says:

    We live on Norman Rd in the new Rubicon development. Around us is a lot of industrial land, some currently in use and some not. There is also the new mega Creekside Village going in across the creek from us (not really looking forward to the 22 story tower slated to come in opposite us!)

    There is so much land that needs to be redeveloped and hardly any being put to greenspace like alotments. It seems to me that right by the river is a great place to have an alotment park. If anyone else agrees surely a petition to the council can start here?

  7. Radders says:

    Nick & Cam – take a look at s.23 of the 1908 Small Holdings and Allotments Act, still in force. The council has a duty to provide allotments if there is sufficient unmet demand, and six signatures will secure a formal council review if submitted under the Act.

    However, it's unlikely that any new allotments will be in the north of the borough, but perhaps an FOI request will reveal substantial areas of unused council land and disused allotment sites elsewhere.

  8. Anonymous says:

    There Are lots of allotments in deptford Still available

  9. Deptford dame says:

    @anon – where are these magical allotments that are available please?! As far as I'm aware, all the plots in Lewisham have waiting lists ranging from 9 months to 4 years.

    @jonathan – you can find out more about the green drinks on the project dirt site. I believe it's just a means to bring together like-minded people and offer support to schemes like your own.

  10. Fat Cat says:

    The industrial estate between the Southern entrance to Greenwich DLR and Norman Road (behind the West Greenwich Centre) is owned by the Council and is out of use. Could this be a slot for new green spaces? Or will they try and flog it off to be developed into more 'ghettos of the future'?

  11. EnglishRose says:

    I suspect a bit of metaphorical spade-digging might reveal a rather surprising situation on the Greenwich allotment front.

    I’ve just taken on an incredibly overgrown plot on a site right at the edge of the borough. Granted it’s not brilliantly accessible to people who live in central Greenwich but nevertheless I expected that it would be incredibly popular and well tended as the waiting list is very long. However, there are at least two plots there which are definitely vacant and very overgrown at the moment (I was shown them both when I went to choose my plot) and a number of other plots don’t seem to be ‘under cultivation’.

    Now, the council is supposed to issue cultivation notices to anyone not working their plot. If the plot owner ignores the notice and fails to do any work then the council has the power to take the land away and give it to someone who will actually work the plot. So why is Greenwich Council letting some of its plots get into such a state when so many people want plots? If I were still on the waiting list I’d be furious!

  12. ConfusedRhubarb says:

    I’d like to know what do people on waiting lists for allotments think about the rent being tripled – does it put you off?

    Could it be yet another way of LBG discouraging people from having allotments? Because if the allotments fall out of use, then the council can get away with selling off the land for development.

  13. ConfusedRhubarb says:

    Council have grudgingly agreed to another “consultation meeting” next Wed 8 Feb 6pm at the Town Hall.
    Their generosity doesn’t seem to extend to actually telling plotholders about the meeting though.
    Consultation is quite an empty word isn’t it.