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There was a time that allotment plots were rarer than rubies, but the winds have changed for green fingered hopefuls

There was a time that allotment plots were rarer than rubies, but the winds have changed for green fingered hopefuls.

Gravesham council has spaces available at the allotments in Bellman Avenue, Cruden Road and Harden Road.

Although plots are currently full in Whitehill Lane, Chalk Old and Chalk New, there is an empty waiting list.

Reg Geeves on his allotment
Reg Geeves on his allotment

The average wait for most of the allotments was, up until recently, between 18 months and two years, but some of the sites were even tougher to get into.

A team of council staff have been policing the borough’s 14 allotments once a month for the past year.

Those who repeatedly weren’t keeping up with their payments had their plots taken back, and plots that were overgrown, full of weeds or barren were also passed on to somebody else eager to use the space productively.

Head of community services, Cllr Sandra Garside, said: “Our allotments are a real part of community life for a lot of our residents. We’ve been working very hard to make sure others who want to have and maintain an allotment can do so.

“We give all current plot owners a fair chance to get their gardening space under control but if they don’t we are taking action. Having an allotment can be very rewarding, so if you’re thinking of getting one make sure you can put in the time and commitment that it takes to keep it cultivated.”

Reg Geeves' allotment at Gravesend
Reg Geeves' allotment at Gravesend

Reg Geeves is one of the council’s long-time allotment holders. He has rented his allotment in Central Avenue for more than 25 years, growing all sorts of fruit and veg from potatoes and cabbages to blackberries and runner beans.

The 72-year-old, of Thomas Drive, Gravesend, said: “It’s well worth the time you put into an allotment. I got interested in it when I was about five years old. My father had a 20-rod allotment [the traditonal measure] and I remember going down there to help him. I’ve got really fond memories.

“I go down to mine two or three times a week and I’d say if you’re after exercise, fresh air and friendship, then an allotment is the place to get that.”

It’s a similar story in Dartford too, with people being encouraged to get involved in growing fresh food.

Clive Bilby is the new members secretary at the Dartford East allotments in Gore Road, where there is the occasional plot opening up.

Clive Bilby on his allotment
Clive Bilby on his allotment

He said: “Organised plant swaps aren’t just an excuse to get together and have a natter over a cup of tea, they also help break the ice and are a fantastic opportunity to exchange seeds and prevent young plants going to waste.

“Allotments can be very sociable places really, especially during harvest time, when everyone is keen to swap some of their surplus in exchange for something they didn’t grow themselves.”

Dartford East has its own Facebook page, helping newcomers and sharing success stories, as well as lessons learnt.

Mr Bilby stressed the health benefits of getting out in the sunshine, feeling relaxed, getting some exercise, knowing what is in your food and eating healthily.

It is National Allotment Week from August 8 to 14. To have one of your own in Gravesend visit www.gravesham.gov.uk and search ‘allotments’. Most plots have water and the cost is £6.20 per square rod – making an average yearly total of £31 for a five square rod plot.

For sites without a water supply the cost is £4.10 per square rod, making a yearly total of £20.50.

For a Dartford plot contact Mr Bilby, on 07542477322 or email dartfordeastallotments@ymail.com.

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