It seems appropriate that the garden allotments pictured here lie in the shadow of an Anglo-Saxon church dating from the seventh century. It was during Saxon times that the parcelling of land began.
Of course, over the centuries there were many changes and the present system has its roots in the nineteenth century when land was given to the labouring poor. Provision was gradually extended and at the end of World War I land was made available for all. A statutory obligation was placed on Local Authorities to provide allotments wherever need arose.
The demand has inevitably been greatest in war years and in times of economic difficulty. In 1944, encouraged by the Government’s Dig for Victory campaign, the number of allotments was estimated to be 1.75 million. By 1970 the number had fallen to 532,000, partly because of the pressure to find land for building, partly due to the advent of supermarkets, and partly to other social changes.
In recent years there has been a revival of interest fuelled not only by economic problems but also by a growing demand for fresh food. Virtually all Local Authorities report a sizeable waiting list for available plots.
The site pictured has approximately 100 plots, most of which are in an advanced stage of clearing and preparation for the new season.
A feature of allotment sites is the camaraderie and community spirit. For some the ‘shed’ is more than just a place where tools are kept.