At sheringham paper, norfolk uk

@ Sheringham Community Paper - Issue 98 - 27 February 2009

National Trust to create 1,000 new allotment plots to help fuel grow your own revolution

UK gardening community to help new growers bridge skills gap

One thousand new allotment plots will be created on National Trust land in the next three years to give local communities the space to grow their own fruit and vegetables.

The initiative comes as demand for growing spaces is at an all time high - with more than 100,000 people currently on allotment waiting lists across the UK - as people look to spend more time with friends or family, exercising in the outdoor 'gym' and enjoying the pleasure of the fresh food they can produce.

Each of the new growing spaces will be created on communities' doorsteps throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and will be registered through the Landshare website set up by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, an online 'match-making' database of keen growers and those who have land available [1].

Fiona Reynolds, Director General of the National Trust, said: "There's something in the air. More and more people want to grow their own fruit and vegetables. This isn't just about saving money - it's really satisfying to sow seeds and harvest the fruit and veg of your labour. By creating new growing spaces the National Trust wants to help people to start growing for the first time."

"We're also looking to recruit many more volunteers with fruit and vegetable growing skills and knowledge to join us, so that we can offer even more practical help and advice to new or novice gardeners."

The new National Trust growing spaces will be available at around 40 different locations. They will vary in size, from smaller plots suited to new growers taking their first steps, to larger areas suitable for community growing schemes.

It has been estimated that these new growing spaces could produce up to around 2.6 million lettuces per year, 50,000 sacks of potatoes or, alternatively, mixed produce worth up to an estimated 1.5 million [2].

The new National Trust growing spaces will be in restored kitchen gardens, agricultural land or on vacant land near to Trust properties. The plan has been developed to support or supplement the National Trust's conservation objectives, which are the basis for each property's management [3].

Fiona Reynolds continued: "We already have allotments and active kitchen gardens at 50 of our properties and many of these already provide spaces for communities to come together and grow their own fruit and veg [see case studies below]. But there's a huge demand for us to do more. We've taken the first steps to increase the amount of growing spaces available, and we are working with Landshare to encourage other landowners to do the same."

As part of the initiative, the National Trust is turning over the back garden of its London office in Queen Anne's Gate to become an allotment used by staff. In the East of England, staff will be creating their own allotment in the grounds of the regional office, just outside Bury St Edmunds.

Monty Don commented: "I am delighted that the National Trust is setting an inspirational example by creating an allotment at their office in the heart of London.

"If every organisation and company did the same then it would transform the health and well-being of the Nation as well as significantly contribute to our National Food supply. In this time of crisis and chaos this is exactly the kind of practical enlightened action that will rebuild and create a better future."

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said: "I'm completely thrilled with this fantastic pledge from the National Trust to offer 1,000 growing spaces to Landshare. This pledge alone has the potential to make a difference to many thousands of people - not just those who grow, but those with whom they share their wonderful produce. These kinds of initiatives offer immeasurable benefits to communities across a whole host of areas - from good health, to helping minimise our impact on the environment, to simply bringing people together. The Landshare website will be launched later in Spring and we have over 25,000 people already registered. Those registrations are right across the UK and it will really be a fantastic opportunity for many people to have their first real chance to grow their own food."

Geoff Stokes, National Secretary for the National Society of Allotment & Leisure Gardeners, said: "The demand for allotment sites is huge and it is great that the National Trust is able to use some of its land to help people grow their own.

"The growth in demand has been happening over the last few years, and though the credit crunch is helping to stir interest, the main reason more people want to grow their own is to improve their quality of life."

Many of the new National Trust growing spaces can be created immediately but some will need work that means they will take longer to create.

The Trust is aiming to have all of its new growing spaces available by 2012 at the latest and will seek to encourage schools, community groups and charities to make use of the new sites, as well as individuals.

Fiona Reynolds added: "Our main aim is to help those who are new to growing to find the space they need but we also want to help them learn how and what to grow. National Trust gardeners and our excellent garden volunteers will be able to pass on their skills and knowledge. But we are also calling for new volunteers - especially experienced fruit and vegetable gardeners - to join us to provide extra help and advice where it is needed."