Preparing the Ground

Stepping out to full air on the turn it’s time to
Get the ground ready for the rush of sowing
And to finish off the roses.
They must be pruned by March
and March is where we’re going.
And there’s much to be done, so
Let’s get the ground ready for so much sowing.

The numbers are straightforward — in many areas across the UK the number of people in waiting lists for allotments is enormous. The number of people that could be enjoying the outdoors, promoting biodiversity and soil health, and producing healthy produce, is enormous. At Green Allotments our thought process is simple. The demand is there. Let’s generate the supply!

Take sites in Brighton and Hove, for example:

At Mile Oak, there’s 60 people on the waiting list, and an expected wait of over 3 years. 
At Foredown there’s 33, with an expected wait of 4.

And the list goes on. There’s 490 people on the waiting list at Wealde, 343 at Roedale…

At this point this is old news. But when everything seems like it’s headed in the wrong direction, it’s worth remembering that there is huge demand right now, already, for positive change in the way we live — it’s just a case of making sure that people are equipped, that they have a space to make that change.

There is a lot of talk about how society needs to reform its relationship to nature, and in many arenas this is going to be difficult. But what if, over the next decade, hundreds of thousands of people in England started growing their own food? What if new communities of people working together and learning about nature came into being around sites where getting your hands dirty quite literally improved well-being? The positive impact of this would be enormous. 

This is the future Green Allotments is working towards. As we source the land, resources, and local ambassadors needed to bring this about, our big dream is beautifully simple.

And our big dream is timely. The pandemic caused a huge surge in demand for allotments, and although this was because of lockdown’s sudden curfew, I like to think it was also because of the way it changed the way we see the world. To this day the waiting list in Croydon, where Green Allotments are looking at a prospective site, remains closed due to the surge in demand caused by the pandemic, and across the country waiting lists remain higher after the pandemic than before it. 

I’ve read a lot of opinions about how the pandemic changed the world and the way we think about it. And firstly, the pandemic was awful; any silver lining to be made from it is only that, a silver lining. 

But personally the pandemic made me more conscious of the world around me. Not immediately of course, but, in the long run, the trees and sky were what emerged from the stilling dust of my former life. 

I’m sure everyone reading this remembers the falling of the first lockdown in Spring 2020. It was so bizarre, and scary, and disorienting. Overnight my former priorities were no longer relevant. A lot of what I had held to be important before was just gone.

Suddenly it was inside, at home, for months, with no guaranteed end-date. April 2020 — the sun blazed through days so still, stiller than any I’ve known since. Each day started the same as the one before, and the sun seemed to be directly on top of the world, pinning down movement in a balance, both revolving and still.

As time passed the preoccupations of my former life were more distant by the afternoon spent quietly, and the world around me came more into view. I started to be more in place, more with trees, like grass growing from its base on one spot. 

That spring was an exceptional spring for blossom, blossom that I remember as unearthly in mist. I was astonished on my daily walks. The bursting of growth dripping with dew from the ground. The branches hung with chandelier-like flowers. My walks became essential. They were the most stimulating part of my day. They were a good thing in a time when, in other ways, I was really not OK. 

I wonder if, for some people, the pandemic had a similar effect. That alongside things like a long overdue recognition of the value of the work of key-workers, the pandemic might also have caused a newfound appreciation for the natural world. The natural world in which we live, and which is so wonderful, so at peace, so still and moving at the same time. I would love to hear about how lockdown affected other people’s experience of nature. Please reach out if you have a story you are willing to share. My dms are always open!

Credit: News Fatigue Syndrome