COLUMNIST: Community spirit - Doncaster style

A visit to Wheatley Hills allotment site showcases their Community Plot. This plot benefits Doncaster folk in several ways.

Friday, 23rd March 2018, 12:36 pm
Updated Friday, 23rd March 2018, 12:40 pm

First of all let us describe its layout. There is a large 1020 square feet poly-tunnel which is complemented by a similar sized hardening-off tunnel. Half a dozen raised beds are in position and a community café cum meeting room and outdoor seating area is in the planning stage. An automatic watering system has been installed.

How are these facilities used? The poly-tunnel has an ambient temperature well above that of the open air. It is almost as if a Mediterranean climate has been imported to Doncaster so that a wide range of fruit, vegetables and flowers can be brought on early. For instance, daffodils in February?

As Spring progresses early crops are moved into the adjacent hardening-off area and remain there until the threat of ground frost has receded.

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So, which sectors of the community are being served by this extensive infrastructure? Well our own 112 plot-holders demand small quantities of all manner of plants, examples being cabbage, broad beans, onions or chilli peppers. Sales of the same products are offered to the wider Doncaster public via on-site sales and show events.

Two physically disabled groups, Motiv8 and J&D Activities visit our site to learn about and practice horticulture as well as nurturing their own plots, with support by pre-existing plot-holders. J&D Activities even have their own plot, plot 17, in which all disabled volunteers and family members can have an opportunity to grow fresh fruit and veg. To accommodate our volunteers, the site’s management team have won grant finance from the Big Lottery Fund, around £9,700 and have installed a composting toilet, and have worked to make the space around the Community Plot wheelchair friendly. This means that there are now flat and even surfaces on the Community Plot which have enabled access to raised beds.

Another aspect of community involvement surrounds finance, as substantial figures have been raised in order to get the Community Plot up and running. Much money has been generated through plot-holders making a delicious range of preserves and chutneys. For several years these have been sold at local country fairs sheltered by a couple of high grade gazebos, which have given such sterling service at sales events and were grant-financed by DMBC and Age UK.

Earlier last year, Doncaster Lions Club donated £200 towards the purchase of the large poly-tunnel, whilst the Rotary Club of Doncaster St Leger generously sourced and donated many useful garden tools. Our Wheatley Hills Allotment group owes a debt of gratitude to both of these local benevolent clubs.

That is not the end of local financial support. Tesco’s Edenthorpe store runs a Bags for Help scheme where customers vote for deserving causes using little plastic counters and Wheatley Hills Allotment Association won £4,700 to support the Community Plot Project. We must not forget the great deal of help and and support we receive from Studio Bathrooms & Kitchens, who kindly sponsor our allotments by providing electricity to run the site shop, as well as providing the means of getting

T-shirts with their company name and logo on. Plot-holders are thankful for all help received from local businesses for the funding of our projects.

Our photo shows representatives from all contributors to the scheme to date. They are Brian Ross and David their Treasurer of the Lions, John Betts of J&D Activities and our own Chairman, Garry Lewis. Plot-holder Karen Oates who won the bid for the composting toilet and the Bags for Help scheme for our site is unfortunately not pictured as she was stuck in Leeds’ heavy traffic! Gratitude also extended to Age UK and DMBC, as well as management committee members Peter and Janet Fowler who make the jams!

What is the next stage of the plan? To work with the two aforementioned disabled groups and supply as much early and out-of-season produce as is possible.

Wish us luck!

John Betts of J&D Activities would just like to add a massive thank-you to Wheatley Hills Allotments for giving them the opportunity to come on board with their young people/adults who have special needs/disabilities. They are trying to offer programmes which would contribute to bettering their life skills and improve socialising skills through horticulture.