118 allotments for the community have been made available on the National Trust’s Kingston Lacy estate in Dorset. 40 allotments for members of the local community; 26 for school and community groups and a further 52 subsidised plots for individuals referred through local housing associations.
The new allotments are the culmination of two years work by the gardening team at the Kingston Lacy estate. £102,000 in funding has been provided by the National Lottery Local Food Scheme as well as £30,000 from Local Action Group, Sowing Seeds.
They lie between the formal gardens and Home Farm, in an area formerly used as the kitchen garden, and never before open to the public. Work has involved creating access tracks, paths and fencing for the six acre site and making old garages into a kitchen and rest room.
There is also an area set aside for a further six raised beds – there are six already – for special needs groups and people in wheelchairs, and in the future it is hoped to recreate an orchard and pond to one side of the garden, including a sensory area.
“It’s great to be able to get involved with people who live near Kingston Lacy and to really help people in our community. We’re giving people who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity, the chance to grow their own food, to get out into the fresh air in a place like this and meet other like-minded people,” said Andrew Hunt from the National Trust, who has been leading the Growing Spaces project.
“Not only can people save money, they can gain real satisfaction from sowing seeds, nurturing plants and harvesting the fruit and vegetables of their labour. There are also physical and mental health benefits from being outside, gardening, especially in such a social environment.”
Queen Elizabeth School is one of the schools involved. Linda Farley, who is leading the project, said: “We are lucky to be very close to the site which means that we are able to bring pupils to the allotment to work for as little as an hour.
“We were involved in the pilot scheme last year and the benefits to pupils are very evident. This year we are growing as many vegetables as we can fit into the time and space! In addition an area has been reserved for growing flowers which we hope to be able to arrange in reception. We have big plans for the future. “
The Dorset ME Support Group is just one of the community groups involved and has plans to grow everything from courgettes to strawberries, and from herbs to kale.
Service co-ordinator Wendy Rideout said: “There are so many benefits to our members, from providing them with nutritious vegetables through to giving them an opportunity join together and contribute to a rewarding group project. It’s great to be able to provide a group activity in an environment so beneficial to our health and happiness. We’ve already made plans for the plot for the next four years.”
Other community groups involved include Age Concern, Poole Housing Partnership, the Dorset Blind Association and many more. Other schools involved include Canford School and St Aldhelms Academy.
The Kingston Lacy allotments are the latest to be created by the National Trust as part of an initiative to get more people outdoors and growing their own food. It plans to create 1,000 new allotment plots on Trust land by February 2012.
In the late 1940s there were 1.4 million allotments in the UK. By the height of the ‘Good Life’ era in the late 1970s there were around 500,000. Today there are around 300,000 allotments.
Fund raising will continue to pay for the running costs of the project and donations of tools and gardening equipment even seeds and plants will be welcomed.
Visitors can keep up-to-date with progress on the Kingston Lacy facebook pages or at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kingstonlacy