Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Working in Lockdown at the Allotments

We are all a bit Covid 19 worn out. Newspapers cover every aspect of it starting at the front page and ending on the back Sports page. TV do not restrict it to the News but spread it across the schedules between repeats and old films and subject us to those Skype ‘talking heads’ from their own homes. It’s interesting to see what the homes look like, or what they want us to see. Zoom has become the big Social media winner facilitating exercise classes and conference calls. But has much changed down on the allotment?

It was soon made clear that allotments were exercise and could be attended but as with every allotment up and down the country we all had to quickly adapt and implement new temporary guidelines and rules. The farm which surrounds us went into lockdown around its core animal areas so restricting our site access but bringing home the need to exercise common sense and protect ourselves and others. Our allotment at the new Crossrail gardens at Canary Wharf became out of bounds and still is today. We had to work with Canary Wharf Group as we still grew the plants but could not plant them as things were on hold. It has been like growing for Chelsea, or several Chelsea’s without the show.

Meetings were cancelled and some would suggest little missed. Seed swaps and Plant swaps had to change but still were.

There were more notices pinned to noticeboards, gates and sent via email. We found ourselves generating notices as things evolved but thankfully are now able to consolidate these onto one A4 sheet (see the consolidated sheet at end of this article).

When folk were uncertain, worried, and often unable to attend their plot there was little point in plot inspections and they were cancelled.

We had to establish who was ‘shielded’, who was caring for someone in the high-risk category and who for whatever reason were wishing to stay away. We then established if those plot holders were happy for use to organise ‘buddies’ to look after their plots so when they did return it wasn’t a jungle and back to square one. Today we have around a dozen plots being looked after and authorised via our Secretary in advance. (T the top of the article is a picture of my neighbour's plot which is being looked after while they are unable to get to the plot).

We quickly restricted site access to plot holders and their children under 16. Fires and BBQs were banned. Social distancing, cleanliness processes, non-sharing of tools and use of water trough and tap guidelines posted.

One challenge many faced in the early weeks was getting compost and other essentials when the stores were closed.

Weeks later we have most of the site looking better than ever, and folk helping each other out. There have been some issues, but these have been quickly resolved and this is with our Secretary in isolation and stuck up North, out Site Manager in isolation with his mum and others juggling many challenges.

Coming out of lockdown it isn’t going to be hard. We are pleased to state that to date we have not had any casualties to the virus.  Some may choose to not come back to their plots but I expect the majority will and a new normal life will pick up.

The things we have probably learnt through this is the value allotments bring to our physical and mental health and wellbeing, the neighbours and community we can rely on to help and the privilege we have in having our plots when many others have so little space.

Applications to join have sky rocketed over the last period and surly it now time local authorities, together with housing associations, care groups, schools and others started to take a holistic strategy on use of open spaces and community growing, education and care.

Important Consolidated Notice 14/05/20 With the continuation of the current Lockdown it is important that we all follow the temporary measures that we have put in place and that are in line with both Regional and National guidelines.

YES keep working your plots, YES keep social distancing, YES use gloves if possible 
NO fires or barbecues, NO visitors

1.     No visitors are allowed without written authorisation from Secretary, (please supply plot and name details), which will not be unreasonably denied but not be brought to suite on all visits. Registered plot holders can continue to attend their plots. No social access will be granted.
2.     Children under 16 may attend with their parents as long as they reside at same house and must be supervised at all times and not go wandering around the site and onto on others plots.
3.     No fires or BBQs are permitted until further notice
4.     Over 70s or either have an underlying health issue, are pregnant, or have received a ‘shielded ‘ notice from government should notify inform the Secretary and follow guidance and information updated daily by the government and are not encouraged to attend and it will be at their own risk and they will not be insured.
5.     Social distance must always be adhered to 
6.     Please pay attention to the notice boards on entry and take note of any notices posted as information can change on a daily basis. 
7.     No Working on other plots is permitted unless authorised in advance.
8.     Gloves are recommended on entry and retained during stay.
9.     Cleanliness is vital so please do not share tools with others and only take water from the troughs and avoid touching ballcocks. Use the taps that are on site provide clean water for medicine and washing hands but please wipe the tap handle clean after use.
10.Access to upper plots is currently restricted to upper gate
If you are unable to work the plot due to government restrictions and would like someone to help maintain it then please contact the Secretary, Site