Broad Oak Park Allotment


Allotment gardens as a space of responsibility

A new article published in the journal Annals of the American Association of Geographers asks us to think about the types of responsibility that are being produced by community gardens and through community gardening.   Harvey Neo and Chengying Chua from the Department of Geography at the National University of Singapore conducted research on community gardens in Singapore. They found that there are different types of responsibility that are being exercised in these spaces. It’s quite a thought-provoking idea. But what does this mean? Well, they distinguish two types of responsibility. Firstly, there is a garden-centric responsibility. This is through the mundane activities of maintaining a garden. We can all share in this experience. We take efforts to keep our plants alive and seek as best we can to maintain order, tidiness and keep weeds at bay. The lawnmower group drive the tractor around to make sure the plot is well-tended. Wood chips and carpet go down to minimise the unwanted proliferation of couch grass. A garden-centric responsibility can also extend to how we think of broader environmental or ecological responsibilities. So, some allotmenteers have bug hotels to support biodiversity. Others plant bee-friendly flowers to encourage the viability of this threatened species and in doing so support the work of bees as a pollinator. A garden-centric responsibility can go deeper, however, through better education and training. This can involve understanding the principles of good soil maintenance and drainage, the benefits of crop rotation and companion planting, and growing our skills as gardeners as we converse with and learn from our neighbours. These are all the types of skill that we can gain over time.


Secondly, Neo and Chua contend there is a community-centric responsibility. This is perhaps a more challenging idea to those of us who wish to take mainly private benefits from gardening. Ostensibly, what this form of responsibility boils down to is about recognising that community gardens or community-managed allotments are also social spaces. We are not just gardeners but are gardeners within a gardening community. More profoundly, community gardens may also have sets of social or environmental objectives that they seek to advance. For example, this may be through creating an inclusive atmosphere for all peoples, abilities and age groups. Or it could be through encouraging people with physical or learning disabilities to give gardening a go. These are aspects that are very present in our Tenancy Agreement, if you have cared to read the finer detail! But there is a deeper idea at work. This is the idea that gardeners are also making communities, growing communities if you will, alongside growing their plants. The two are cultivated together. I’ve certainly seen these aspects at work every time I’ve visited Broad Oak Park Allotments through the sense of friendship and camaraderie that permeates the site. We share in triumphs and gift gluts of produce to neighbours. And then we lend the hand of consolation or a shoulder to cry on to our fellow gardeners whose crops have been taken by blight….or badgers! The recent strawberry tea event saw these principles very much to the fore in the neighbourly and good-humoured way in which we shared food and stories. There are also aspects of community-centric responsibility that have become apparent in recent weeks. As plot-holders experience poor health or find their other commitments reduce the time they can spend tending their plot then other plot-holders come forth to lend a hand.


Thinking about allotments as a ‘space of responsibility’ may perhaps be stating the obvious, but it invites us to consider what our everyday responsibilities are and how best we can meet these responsibilities, whether this is to our plants and the species they support, or to our neighbours and fellow plot-holders.  Happy gardening!



Our Summer Festival

On Saturday 24th June we held our summer festival where we enjoyed a cream tea and picnic in good company, before touring the site to admire the efforts made in our first annual scarecrow festival competition.  Thank you to everyone who participated - the standard was high this year and we look forward to seeing many more scarecrows looking out over the site next summer!

Allotment Gardening as a Collective Enterprise

As a lecturer in human geography I’m interested in how people relate to the environment. For a couple of years now, as well as helping to tend my family’s allotment patch at Broad Oak Park, I’ve spent my day job working on funded projects that explore the nature of our connection to the environment through activities like gardening. Perhaps unbeknownst to you, allotment gardening has been studied by social researchers interested in how gardening and growing contribute to health and well-being. Research has been produced on the types of physical, emotional and social benefits that can accrue through working the land, both alone and together. My research has found that the benefits of gardening are not just private; they extend beyond the individual, and even challenge us to think of the allotment as a public space that can generate social benefit. Allotment gardens are rich in their potential here. Consider a few of these examples: at the allotment we gift excess seeds and produce to our neighbours; we share knowledge and skills; we chatter and natter about the state of our fruit and veg; we tend to plants if our neighbours are away; and, we show concern if fellow gardeners haven’t been seen for a while. All are social actions vital to the health of the plot and our well-being. David Crouch and Colin Ward, authors of The Allotment: Its Landscape and Culture, wrote about the allotment stimulating metaphors about the way we might live and the social aspects of allotment gardening are very much to the fore in their study . As well as the mundane drudgery of weeding and watering and the back-breaking mornings spent forking and raking, allotments they argue are also about friendships, family gathering, and mutual help. They are perhaps less as a space of private retreat and more a form of collective enterprise.
It’s great to see the Broad Oak Park Allotment Association being formed and officially constituted. There is work to be done in getting members involved in improving and promoting the site, and I, no doubt like others at the site, welcome opportunities for growing together.
If anyone’s interested in reading more about my research you can take a look at the following websites – or - otherwise I’m happy to chat to anyone interested in the research when I’m at the allotment
Paul Gilchrist (plot 16)

BOPAA Communal Shed

You may have seen a few of us putting up the shed and beginning to paint it green. We haven't finished yet, but it will be ready soon. We will be painting again on Friday 15th July. Just come along and join in, if you'd like!

Bee Keeping Meeting at the People Greenhouse Saturday 11th June

Many of the Broad Oak Allotment plot holders were joined at the hospitable People Greenhouse on Saturday morning, by Mr. Mike Cullen, a local Master Bee Keeper. He was very informative and answered all of our questions regarding keeping bees on our site. We voted in favour, by an absolute majority, to keep bees on our site. Look out for the hive arriving within the next few weeks in the bottom corner of the allotments!

Ride-On Mower Training 14th March 2016

We were joined by Paul from Battle Mowers on 14th March, who demonstrated how to use our new ride-on mower and provided training for the Association volunteers who were interested in taking part. It was great to see so many members kindly willing to offer their time to maintain our grounds. Thank you!