Saturday, April 25, 2009

Allotments

It is a cold wintry wet morning here so no gardening outside! In response to a comment by Latane wondering what allotments are I decided to post about it for the uninitiated.
Allotments have a long and chequered history which I won't go into too much ,suffice to say they began as far back as the 17th century in England.There had been common land available up to then where poor peasant farmers and labourers could graze some animals and grow food to feed their families but even back then land was becoming valuable and wealthy landowners began enclosing this common land.
Around the mid 1800s the government passed the first Allotments Act. It was felt it would give the poor some self respect and alleviate some of their misery. The allotments were introduced around cities as most of the poor lived in squalid conditions in tenements without any gardens or green areas.
During the war years the Dig for Victory campaign meant every available green area was given over to food production and there were 1,500,00 allotment plots which produced up to one fifth of the country's food. Allotments then became open to everyone not just the poor.
In England they became a way of life for a lot of people, mostly a male preserve!As well as feeding their families the plot holders were able to sell produce at markets.Allotments holders became recycling concious long before it became fashionable, nothing was thrown out if it could be used in any way on the plot, as in greenhouses which served for many years, being made from old windows and panes of glass!
They have never been a huge undertaking in Ireland as we were a more agricultural based economy. After we became a republic the great estates were divided up and the County Councils began a building programme giving cottages with one acre of land to the working people. Up to this time a lot of country people were migrant workers following the work from place to place in their locality as the bigger farmers needed help with ploughing and harvesting.
My own Grandparents became the proud owners of one of these cottages and my main memories of my Grandfather are of him outdoors digging in the garden where enough food was grown to feed the household. They also kept 2 pigs which were bought as baby bonhams and fattened to sell on. I remember as a child sitting up beside him
in the donkey cart taking the pigs to sell in the town and bringing home the months supply of flour and grain which were their only bought purchases!My own parents always had a productive garden both for veg and flowers so I suppose this was passed on to us.
This generation passed on and the price of land went through the roof, we became more affluent and convenience foods came into vogue and for the most part we forgot how real food tasted.
In Cork city allotments or market gardens as they were called had a long tradition but as land got more and more expensive and the city needed more building land the allotments were built on without too much fuss.
In the last number of years with all the processed food scares and we want a return to food without chemicals the allotment movement has gained momentum again.
Our allotments took shape about 10 years ago as Zwena who owns the land became more aware of how lonely the once busy farms were now with all the machines doing the work and she started the Hydro gardening project in Blarney, she was very forward thinking and now can give advice to others in the same position who want to set up allotments on their land as more and more people look to grow their own veg.
The plots are rented out on a yearly basis to the plot holders, the plots can be any size but around 20x 30 feet are more or less the norm it can look small until you start digging! Our city councils are being inundated with requests from people looking for land to be designated as allotments now. So great is the interest in them that our national TV station has got involved with chef Richard Corrigan in setting up allotments on two sites in Cork City where he has 24 volunteers to begin growing their own veg and keeping pigs and hens.
When my daughter Kathryn and myself became involved 3 years ago we were both working fulltime so it took us most of that time to get fully up and running but now that I am retired from gainfull employment we have taken on the second plot this year. When we started I went online looking for advice and information and set up my blog with this in mind. I found no allotment bloggers from Ireland but lots in England and the UK where I gleaned lots of information.Recently Irish gardeners are coming online and one such is Sharon who with 3 young friends has just taken on a plot in Co Wicklow (The garden of Ireland) and has started blogging about their adventure on plot 103Some have no garden just a balcony like eight square metres who veg grows on every inch of the balcony! Liam's blog is about both veg and flowers which he grows from seed, lots of them!
This is a bit long winded but I hope it answers your question Latane and clarifies the allotments for anyone reading my blog and wondering what I am talking about.

7 comments:

W. Latane Barton said...

Good Morning, Peggy
Thank you for taking the time to explain what an allotment is. I loved your personal story in there about your Grandfather and you and the donkey cart. What memories. And, you gave such a history of allotments. Here in the US the people with land and are interested in growing their own food do so. I do know that during WWII everyone that could grew Victory gardens.

While my hubby was in the Navy, if we lived in a house with any amount of ground around it he would plant something. Sometimes we were in apartments. After he retired from the Navy we moved to the 60 acres that we had owned for ages. And, there was gardening going on big time.

Thanks again for enlightening me and others about allotments.

Barbarapc said...

I've been tempted to put my name on the list here in Oakville to see if I might be able to get a little town garden plot that's more appropriate for veggies. I think it's a terrific way to meet folks, trade plant stories and grow lots of fresh food. The fee is $63.00cdn - so not so bad....will have to see how my new veggie garden works out at home. If it's a bust - it's off to the allotments next year!

Bangchik and Kakdah said...

It is obviously an adventure to be be involved in allotments... us, the plants and the people... For the moment we keep ourself busy with the space around the house, our little garden. .. Happy Gardening!! ~ bangchik

sharonl said...

Lovely story Peggy! and Thanks for the mention!!! I was surprised when I started blogging how few blogs there were on allotments but thankfully between blogs, tv shows and various websites springing up it looks like allotmenteering is definately heading for a boom, which is brilliant!! Happy gardening!

Scarlett the Heavenly Healer said...

Lovely post Peggy. Really informative and interesting.

Here's a little true anecdote you might like: my friend Paddy's grandfather was the person who coined the phrase 'Dig For Victory' during the war. (I believe he was a governmental minister of some kind...)
Isn't that great!

It's always my pleasure to drop in and read your blog.
:)

Lynda said...

Thanks for a most interesting post, Peggy - so much info here that I did not know/realise. I posted a little something off for you today ... let me know once it reaches you safely, hopefully it won't take too long all the way from Africa :)

CiNdEe said...

That was a great explaination.
It is great so many people want to grow their own veggies.
I come from a long line of family owned gardeners and farmers too. My Grandparents each were raised on Dairy farms. Life was so much harder in those days.
Thanks for sharing your story.
CiNdEeS' GaRdEn