Five Leaves Publications 2015
ISBN: 978-1-910170-13-7 (or via your local library!)
Allotments are a good place to help feed a family, relax and socialise. A haven of tranquility, or so it seems.
Lesley Acton shows that behind today’s plots there is rich political history. Rural riots led to early allotment provision, and later development of local government led to a rapid expansion of plots. Allotments were seen as a counter to ‘communistic agitators’ but more recently cash strapped councils have tried to sell them, leading to major battles.
This history is well covered, but unlike most other allotment histories, Lesley Acton makes effective use of allotment society records from County Durham to London to show who had allotments, the problems facing allotmenteers, and their responses to site threats.
She identifies areas where little is known – for example, what were the vegetable varieties grown on allotments in the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign? Lesley finds Local Authorities can compulsorily ‘hire’ land for allotments and use Section 106 agreements with developers to create allotments. But how many do?
Threats to allotments get good coverage and so do schemes to encourage allotment gardening. Though allotments have seen a remarkable national revival, some sites are still under threat and we could still see interest decline. Motivations for having an allotment remain complex. Lesley attributes much of the 1970s revival to the TV sitcom The Good Life but droughts in 1974 and 1975 pushed up food prices and at least in East London many started plots to help budget.
Overall this is a very good book to be recommended among gardening works.
‘The Digger of York’
Courtesy of Allotment & Leisure Gardener: Issue 3 2015