Home / Sean's Kitchen Garden / 2017 / Hounded out by Allotment Committee [UPDATED]
allotment covered in black plastic sheeting
Large sheet of black plastic sheeting before being weighed down.

Hounded out by Allotment Committee [UPDATED]

It’s official, I’ve given up my wartime allotment. Let’s go back to the beginning.

March 2017

Visiting the allotment site on a wet Sunday morning I was shown six available plots. Three of these plots were next to each other and it was suggested that I could take on all three if I’d wish. It sounded like the perfect solution, a traditional full-sized allotment of 10-rods.

Costs: £37.50 for the plots, plus £9.50 for subs / water / federation levy, plus a £20 refundable deposit for the key to the site. Total of £67.00.

Taking on the new plot coincided with the start of my health scare. The doctor dropped the bombshell that she thought the pain in my stomach could be colon cancer so over the course of the next few weeks I was in and out of hospital having tests and examinations. Visits to the plot became few and far between but I kept the committee informed when I saw them at the monthly plot inspections. An apple tree on a neighbours plot was so big that everyone had to walk onto my plot in order to continue your journey, I informed the committee of this and they said it was noted.

July 2017

At the start of July I received the news that all tests had come back clean and the problem was within the lungs. Even though the problem hadn’t been sorted out, knowing that it wasn’t as serious as cancer, which cut short the lives of my father and mother, I could now regain my focus in life and carry on.

I returned to the allotment and the first task was to mark out the exact dimensions of my plot as the boundary line had become blurred over the years. Using a few bamboo canes and twine I marked out the boundary. A week later I received an email from the Secretary stating that my boundary line was in the wrong place and that they had taken it upon themselves to move the twine and sticks further into my plot.

At the monthly plot inspection we happily chatted away and I told them of my plans, giving them a drawing on paper of how I saw the final design. During the chat I mentioned the idea of surrounding the plot with a temporary fence of green plastic to keep out weeds so I wasn’t constantly fighting against them. The Secretary stormed back up the path and told me that no fence would be allowed. When I pointed out the fence would be identical to what was on another allotment a few plots away she give in and said it would be ok. This was the first time she suggested that I gave up the plot.

I ordered a very large sheet of black plastic sheeting to cover the plot. It was due to arrive the following week and the committee were informed of my plans. A week later I received another email asking where the plastic was and why hadn’t it be laid. I was waiting for it to be delivered and when it arrived it was put directly onto my plot. By this time I felt like I was being singled out and appeared to be having fortnightly inspections.

Noticing the apple tree on my neighbours plot was getting bigger and causing more of a problem when walking down the communal path, I informed the committee again. They only reply was that I had highlighted the tree previously. Still nothing was actually done.

Shed

ShedGate

An email was sent to all members offering a shed which a local resident wanted to get rid of. It was in perfect condition and the Secretary offered it to any member including details of its dimensions. I telephoned the resident and it was agreed I would collect it a few days later. With the help of a friend we moved it down the road and onto my allotment. Around a week later I received an email from the Secretary stating that she had noticed a shed on my allotment and that it was too big to be erected in accordance to the site rules. In fact it was 11inch too big. Seeing as the Secretary had offered the shed to plot holders I presumed it was ok. Apparently not. I was informed that it could not be erected and when I challenged them on why had they offer it if they knew it was too big, I was branded a trouble maker.

August 2017

By now I felt I was being singled out for special treatment but not the nice kind. Emails felt as if they were arriving every fortnight with new requirements. A few weeks before the official monthly inspection another email arrived stating that the boundary line was in the wrong place. Remember, I hadn’t moved it since the committee moved it a few months ago. The new boundary line had been marked out with metal sticks and I wasn’t to touch it. Funnily the new boundary was in exactly the same location as when I marked out the area originally. Now I was sure the committee were playing games.

The new boundary was set, the black plastic covered the majority of the plot and the shed just lay on the ground. Throughout all these months I kept the grass cut and made a flower bed planting strawflowers and poppies, wonderful they looked in the sunshine. I had also already started turning over the soil.

Despite all this another email arrived last Sunday evening stating that more of the site should be covered in black plastic and the plastic that had been laid wasn’t laid properly. Therefore they made a decision that very little work would be done throughout Winter and suggested I gave up the plot.

Failing Committee

It’s very poor of a committee to presume that everyone gardens in the same manner. What I love about gardening is the fact there are many ways of achieving the same goal. Before laying the plastic I had sprayed the grass and weeds, lifting it to check every few weeks to see how it was progressing, it was doing well. Weeds had died back and once it was raked it exposed beautiful earth. By the way, remember the large apple tree that blocked the path, forcing everyone to walk over my plot – that’s still there, nothing has been done which just goes to demonstrate that they had an issue with myself from the beginning.

Having spoken to many people I’ve come to the conclusion that whatever I do it would always be criticised. I found it strange at the time that I was offered to view 6 plots. Why so many plots available on one site? Maybe the reason is down to the fact that members had left after being hounded out by an over demanding Secretary, I don’t know.

This week the task is to collect all my tools, fold up the black plastic sheeting and move everything along with the shed back home. Throughout my experiences of working on projects for myself, the Daily Mail newspaper and the National Society of Allotment & Leisure Gardeners, I have never come across a more unsupportive and destructive Secretary as runs this site.

Running an allotment should be fun and supportive. Plot holders should not be made to feel scared to visit their site or for their efforts to be downplayed and discouraged, especially when an unexpected heath matter arising.

For now I’ll keep calm and carry on but first, time for a cuppa tea. The Dig for Victory project is not over, there are plans afoot, more to be revealed this Autumn.

UPDATE – A WEEK LATER:

Earlier this week I offered my shed to a friend, remember the one that was too big for my plot by 11inch. Turns out she’s on the same site as me and has just sent me this text: “Got agreement from the committee to build your shed on my plot.” Just goes to show they wanted me off site after taking my £67. Strange that!

About Sean James Cameron

Based in London, Sean has been gardening since being a teenager. Although vegetables and fruit is the main passion, there is also room for flowers.

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