A number of Newport residents have come together to form an allotments group (NAGs) to initially identify a site for allotments within the community, highlighting the growing enthusiasm for allotments as people increasingly seek to grow and develop their own food. Unfortunately, despite numerous efforts by the Parish Council and others no land has been found. Although there is hope of land available in neighbouring Gilberdyke. The subject of allotments was also raised at a planning presentation I attended this week.
Just as common land was being "enclosed" in the 18th and 19th centuries, the allotment sprung up as a link to a happier, more rural past. The Small Holdings and Allotment Act of 1908 required local authorities to provide land for cultivation, and the restrictions on development were stricter than now.
Some residents may be able to recall that during the Second World War some 1.4m allotments were dug for victory, and today there are still around 300,000. A typical allotment can return an annual yield of £300 of produce, and charges range from about £25 to £120 per year. Most charmingly, an allotment plot is officially 10 poles, a "pole" being the length from the back of the plough to the nose of the ox. (In today's money, I'm told by a reliable source that one gets 4 allotments to the acre)
The high cost of food and the modern enthusiasm for all things organic has heightened desire for allotments, and as we see in Newport there is a demand and in other areas waiting lists stretch to many years for some plots. And, of course, the allotment boasts its own cultural institution – the shed, where a man or woman may enjoy the solitary pleasures of the seed catalogue. Long may the allotment flourish.