Friday, February 22, 2019

Value of Allotments to the Community

(1) Social cement and inclusiveness. In an age when most of our problems are social ones, allotments provide social cement. My own allotments association brings together men and women from  all age groups, ethnic and national origins, social and educational backgrounds,  income groups, and occupations  - including retired and unemployed people.1   The plots are witness daily to countless acts of kindness – gifts of seed, plants and produce, help with watering and heavy work, sharing of equipment, refreshments and experience – that run counter to the prevailing selfish culture outside.

(2) Exercise. The exercise that allotments provide for individuals lightens the national health bill, whereas sports clubs (commonly also provided by local councils are more expensive to set up and maintain, cater for a more restricted age group and through injuries add to the NHS bill. Gardening for the disabled can be catered for in some allotments.

(3) Promoting child welfare. Teachers, authors and scientists have recently identified a range of modern ills that are depriving childen of a well-balanced childhood. Allotments provide a relatively safe playground in which children can  get fresh air and exercise and be taught about nature and the concept of nurturing through looking after plants, in addition to gaining respect for other people’s property and possibly an interest for life.

(4) Relaxation. Most importantly, allotments provide contentment. The prevailing green environment promotes calmness. It was their leisure gardens that kept the people of West Berlin sane during their long isolation.

(5) Atmospheric improvement. Allotments like parks in urban areas provide  oxygen-generating and carbon dioxide consuming  ‘green arteries’ through the city.

(6) Helping maintain biodiversity. Allotments and gardens form corridors for associated wildlife, most significantly of pollinating insects. One third of the food we eat depends upon the activities of pollinators. Fragmentation of their habitats by land development for non-agricultural purposes leads to isolation and then extinction of these invaluable insects. In my urban allotment in Glasgow, at least 10 bee and hoverfly species – both important pollinators - are regularly found.

Keith Vickerman


1 In my thirty years on the allotments, my plot neighbours have included (in addition to university professors) an eminent surgeon, a fireman,  schoolteachers, a vet,  two artists, two policemen, a mother of five, a journalist, a grief counsellor, a drug addict, a Knight of the  Realm and the Deputy Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament.

2 A by no means comprehensive list would include  the bumble bees (Bombus terrestris, B.lapidarius, B.hortorum, B. pascuorum, B. pratorum), other bees (Apis mellifera, Megachile centuncularis, Halictus rubicundus, Colletes succinctus), the hoverfles  (Syrphus vitripennis,  Syrphus ribesii, Metasyrphus luniger, Episyrphus balteatus, Meliscaeva sp., Melanostoma scalare, Helophilus pendulus, Eristalis pertinax, Volucella bombylans).

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