Gardeners know the real benefits of gardening, growing fresh produce, and getting your hands into the soil. Since the pandemic first struck in March 2020, more and more people have taken to growing their own and allotments have become even more popular as people have discovered the importance of being outside in the fresh air.
One such allotment group that has embraced the health and well-being benefits of gardening and being outdoors is the Willoughby Road Allotment Association in Boston, Lincolnshire.
But for them it’s not new because they have been banging their drum about this for many years and because of all their hard work and dedication, they have created a facility that works not just for individual allotment holders, it also takes in the wider community, including NHS workers.
The allotments on the site were created by the Corporation of Boston back in 1957 with 70 full-size plots. Some of the land was later used as a car park for the nearby Butterfly Hospice and the site now stands at 2.2ha. (5.8 acres) with around 60 plots of varying sizes, with a healthy waiting list. In recent years, many people have taken on a half or third of a plot and this system works very well for those that have less time or want to grow less.
Although the site is owned by Boston Borough Council, in 2014 tenants voted to break away from the council and form an association to manage the day-to-day running of the allotments. This allows the management committee of volunteers to control the budget and the plot fees and over the past seven years the site has thrived with many improvements being carried out. The committee, now chaired by Gerry Ladds, are continually looking for ways to improve the facilities and at new and exciting ways to work with the community.
The borough bouncil and its elected members are still very supportive and help whenever they can with projects.
Since the association was formed a large cabin has been erected that is used for meetings, social events and school groups; community areas have been developed along with a wildlife area and an orchard, as well as the site being made wheelchair friendly. Grants and funding from several bodies have helped with this work and the committee are still raising money and applying for lottery grants to further improve the site by building toilets and developing an area known as Nature’s Happy Space.
This project was the idea of Gerry and came about because of all the work the NHS has done and continues to do. It will be a place to sit and relax in a peaceful environment, surrounded by beautiful plants and edible hedging. Funding over five years will also pay for a coordinator to develop links with the NHS, Pilgrim Hospital, local schools and nursery care to educate on the health benefits of growing fresh food, working with nature and how gardening and being outdoors can improve mental health and well-being. Already staff from the hospital either have plots or visit the site to take a break from their stressful work and it’s hoped that the partnership can be expanded and developed in the future.
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