Cllr Sue Shanks, Deputy Convenor of the Green Group, blogs for National Allotment Week
This week is National Allotments Week, a week to celebrate the community value of allotments. With the theme of shared harvest, the week aims to raise awareness of how we can provide for each other – whether that’s our fellow allotment holders, or charitable initiatives.
I have been very lucky to have grown up in the country and also to have had access to a garden for most of my life. At various times I have had an allotment and currently have one in Brighton and Hove. I enjoy the community aspect of renting an allotment, and was delighted by our recent BBQ where we discussed everything from gardening to politics. It was great to share stories together and also swapping produce.
The aspects of community from an allotment aren’t exclusive to a plot.
Gardening can also be a sociable enterprise, with people chatting over garden walls or undertaking community projects in their local parks. We have plenty of great residents groups across the city who are doing great things for our open spaces, such as the Norfolk Square Gardens Project or the Friends of Preston Park. Often neighbours help with local gardens where people don’t have time to work on them.
Even a balcony or courtyard can provide enough space to get your hands dirty, which helps your immune system! You can grow tomatoes or flowers or herbs.
Children often love seeing things grow and many primary schools have access to gardening space.
There has been a great deal of discussion lately in the press about the value of being outside, exposure to sunlight for Vitamin D for example but gardening gives us so much more than that.
The value of green spaces for mental health and wellbeing cant be underestimated. It’s no surprise that a number of local charities like Martlets Hospice provide gardening for therapeutic benefits. Mind suggest there are a multitude of benefits to gardening for your mental health too, including reducing stress, anger and providing relaxation.
For me the garden provides a time to get away from work and family pressures and be creative. The results can be eaten and admired or just contemplated. It keeps you in touch with the seasons and teaches you to wait for the good things that are growing here rather than imported.
Loss of green space
It’s this, among other things that makes me such a passionate supporter of keeping green spaces. Yet throughout the country, allotments are disappearing. The wellbeing factor from green spaces can’t be underestimated and yet in some cases, it has.
We’re lucky to have so many allotment plots in Brighton and Hove and I’d encourage anyone to apply.