Hello, and welcome to the new blog page for EAGS.
My name is John Dann and I am the new “editor”.
Let me start by clarifying that I see the objective of the blog is to be informative about allotment life, all aspects of growing, the society, the EAGS shop, whats on, who's who. Pretty much everything, and anything, to everyone.
A little about myself. I first had an allotment in 1975 in Romford, which was then in Essex but now appears to be in East London. I gave that up in 1987 when I moved to proper East London, Wapping – half a mile from Tower Bridge. I there acquired an allotment in Cable Street which spanned the Fenchurch Street and Docklands Light railway. Half to the north of the railway lines and half to the south. The two sites were connected by going under the railway viaduct arches. Incidentally, the oldest railway viaduct in the world – wow, I hear you say. Strictly the site was a Community Garden rather than an allotment. It was previously waste ground, owned by Tower Hamlets council, which was reclaimed by Friends of the Earth in 1970 and turned into plots for the use of the community. There were approximately 70 plots and a very diverse group of plotholders. Being the East End there were nearly as many nationalities as there were plots.
Reluctantly, I had to give that up when I moved to Eastbourne in 2009. I was then on the waiting for 3 years until I obtained a plot on the newly re-opened Durley Field. So this is my sixth year here.
Basically, I love allotments. I’ve had one for more or less for 40 years. I like the quiet, the exercise, the produce, but foremost I love to grow plants – I must have sown hundreds of thousands of seeds over the years but I’m still overjoyed and amazed when I first see the germinating seedling poking through the soil. I also enjoy the chit chat and friendship with fellow plotholders – I have found them generally to be fairly like minded people.
I believe that allotments sites are one of the joys in life, and I want to do my little bit in trying to preserve them. That’s why I joined the EAGS Committee about 3 years ago and why last year I accepted an invitation to become a Trustee.
The main reason I volunteered for the Committee is that I’m very wary of outside bodies attempting “land grabs”.
I have experience of predatory acts on two occasions. At the Romford Allotment site, the Havering Council tried to “entice” the Allotment Societies to give up some of the allotment land in exchange for new sheds etc for those remaining. Luckily this was rejected. And in Cable Street the adjoining school was continually making applications to Tower Hamlets Council to obtain half the site to increase the school’s campus. It’s probably an urban myth but the council extended the community garden lease by 30 years when the school head told the council that she had direct line to the Vatican.
So I am sceptical of schools, councils, politicians, building companies, whoever sees allotments as a land grab opportunity. I strongly believe we need to preserve them.
The best way of achieving this is by maintaining a high level of occupancy. We must not let a large number of vacant plots become an opportunity to take land from us. We presently have an occupancy rate of 97%. This has taken a lot of work to achieve and will take even more hard work to maintain. Like many things in life what comes around goes around. Allotments aren’t presently particularly sexy so there aren’t hoards of people queuing for a plot. Gillian and Claire had done an excellent job in achieving this high level of let, but they need all the help from volunteers they can get.
The other concern for the Society is that the finances are precarious. We need the high level of lets and a thriving shop to just breakeven. Seven years ago the grant from the council was over £28,000. This has gradually been reduced to zero this year. Again volunteers are needed to keep the shop going and to help preserve the sites.
So that’s why I joined the committee. We always need help so please volunteer if you are able to do so.
This first blog has seemed to evolve into a request for volunteers. And why not. We do need as many people as we can get. For example, we would like a volunteer Secretary to take the minutes at our meetings, only 8 meetings a year, but any help would be most welcome.
We would also like any help possible with IT, plumbing, electrical, carpentry – in fact almost anything. Please let myself, or Gillian, know if are able to give some time for us.
During the coming weeks I’ll add items showing what I’m doing on the plot, and what’s happening in the society.
If you would like anything included within the blog please email me details.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Or come and see me on the plot. I’m an early morning person which I appreciate isn’t to everyone taste, but I’ll be pleased to meet people for a chat.