Growing their own sows seeds of new friendship

The field at Donington before the allotments were created. Photo supplied.

The field at Donington before the allotments were created. Photo supplied.

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COMMUNITY spirit is alive and well in South Holland as residents are being brought together in the fresh air in gardens and allotments.

COMMUNITY spirit is alive and well in South Holland as residents are being brought together in the fresh air in gardens and allotments.

Community work in the garden doesn't have to raise a sweat at Unity Gardens in Long Sutton, where neighbours gather for barbecues as well as communal gardening. Photo: SG160411-134TW

Community work in the garden doesn't have to raise a sweat at Unity Gardens in Long Sutton, where neighbours gather for barbecues as well as communal gardening. Photo: SG160411-134TW

However, the trend is not so much about individuals working their own plots, but for neighbours and like-minded residents to work communally, both to produce their own fresh vegetables and for the joy of sharing a common interest.

In these ‘mend and make do’ times, the waiting lists for allotments are increasing as more people see the attraction of growing their own.

In Long Sutton and Donington, this has turned into a communal endeavour, a movement endorsed by Long Sutton in Bloom and South Holland in Bloom chairman Kay Jenkinson.

She says: “It’s a developing thing. More people are growing their own, even if it’s just a grow bag. Hopefully, allotments are coming full circle because they were common and I think in some areas people are now queuing up to get their name down for one.”

Space has been created at Unity Gardens for a tree nursery for Long Sutton In Bloom, whose aim is ultimately to create a public wood. At the planting are (from left): Jim Conlay, Vic George, Kay Jenkinson, Tony Button and (front) vice-chairman Barry Meade. Photo: SG150411-126TW

Space has been created at Unity Gardens for a tree nursery for Long Sutton In Bloom, whose aim is ultimately to create a public wood. At the planting are (from left): Jim Conlay, Vic George, Kay Jenkinson, Tony Button and (front) vice-chairman Barry Meade. Photo: SG150411-126TW

In the eco housing development at Unity Gardens in Long Sutton, the ‘green’ ethos has spilled over into the gardens, where residents have a communal shed, bench, strimmer and barbecue. There might be as many as six people working in the garden together, and residents take part in vegetable swaps, as well as exchanging seeds and plants.

Resident Jo’ann Thompson said they have grown spring cabbage, leeks have just come up, and potatoes, spinach, spring onions, radishes and summer lettuce have been planted. Jo’ann tries to eat only what she grows, although admits she has to buy mushrooms and celery. She and one of her neighbours keep chickens, and all the residents are raising funds to replace the communal bees lost in the harsh winter.

“If you can do communal growing, it’s lovely,” said Jo’ann. “It can be difficult because people have different time allowances and different priorities. But it’s lovely to be out with a common interest and it’s good for people’s well-being.”

In Donington, the urge to be in the great outdoors has meant that people of all ages are working on new allotments created in an over-grown field.

Chairman of Donington in Bloom Liz Walker says the project has brought together people in their 80s, early retired and middle-aged couples, as well as one youngster aged around 13. One of the 11 allotments is being used by Thomas Cowley High School pupils so they can learn new skills.

“People were saying they wanted them and because this piece of land wasn’t being cultivated it was getting over-grown,” explained Liz.

“It’s literally just started and they are all at different stages of planting, but it already gives a good community spirit and it will also teach life skills to the children.

“Donington in Bloom likes to do things for the community. Our aims and objectives are to improve Donington for everybody.

“We want a stimulating, healthy environment and what is more healthy and stimulating than gardening?

“It’s amazing. People who have had allotments before are giving advice to those who have never had one, and it’s so good to see the variety of methods. You have people who have raised beds, people with little patches of ground, and those who are working every square inch.”

All of Donington’s residents can enjoy the rewards of fresh produce as there are plans afoot to create a communal herb garden next to the library, with residents invited to help themselves – and look up uses of herbs in the library if they’re unsure.