Colwich Allotments Association began in 1983 when the Parish Council purchased land off Coley Lane, Little Haywood, for the provision of allotments for parishioners. The main site originally had 47 plots but, due to their popularity the site was soon extended to 68 plots.
Allotments are small parcels of land rented to individuals for the purpose of growing their own food and sometimes keeping some small livestock, such as chickens. There is no set standard size but the most common is ten rods, an ancient measurement equivalent to 302 square yards or 253 square metres. Parish Councils have a statutory duty to provide allotments for their parishioners if there is sufficient demand.
Most allotment sites, like ours, are owned by the local council, and rental costs vary greatly across the country, with some costing over £100 a year. Our current rental is £20, which includes the cost of public liability insurance for each plot holder. There is a current membership of 60, with a waiting list. Members grow a very wide variety of fruit, vegetables and flowers.
Modern allotments can be traced back to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I in the late 16th century when much land that had previously been held in common began to be enclosed for more efficient farming. In order to compensate the poor, allotments of land were attached to cottages so that people could grow their own vegetables and keep some animals.
This trend continued in the 17th and 18th centuries as more land was enclosed and more people began to live in towns and cities. Acts of Parliament required local councils to provide allotments and cottage gardens if there was a demand for them. They were regarded by Victorians of a way of providing the poor with a good way of using what spare time they had, keeping them away from public houses and providing wholesome food for their families.
In Colwich and the Haywoods, and in neighbouring villages in the later 19th and early 20th centuries there was a thriving gardening society, established in 1869 as “The Trent Valley Society for the Encouragement of Cottage Gardening”, with the Earls of Lichfield, Shrewsbury and Harrowby as patrons. Annual shows were held at Ingestre, Sandon, Chartley or Shugborough. They were very popular and attracted many entrants and visitors, with prizes awarded for the best gardens and for the best fruit, flowers and vegetables.
These shows continued until the First World War but were not revived afterwards. Food shortages during and after the war increased the demand for allotments but in the 1930s demand fell, partly due to improved food supplies. The number of allotments fell and many were lost due to the demand for building land. However, the food shortages during the Second World War and the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign led to an increase in the number of allotments. By 1943 there were about 1,500,000 allotments but this number declined after the war to about 500,000 in the early 1970s.
There was an increase in the later ‘70s, partly due to a growing interest in self-sufficiency, helped by TV programmes such as “The Good Life”, but by the end of the century the number of allotments had declined again to about 300,000. In the new century there has been a revival in demand especially following concerns about the genetic modification of plants, the increased use of chemicals in agriculture and horticulture, and the effects of environmental pollution.
The Colwich Allotments Society site is presently run by a management committee of 7 elected members, responsible to the Parish Council. Apart from the usual posts of chairman, secretary and treasurer, other committee members are responsible for such matters as plot management, site management, seed orders, publicity, environmental matters and water supply.
The Association committee maintains and improves the site, which now includes two wildlife gardens to promote biodiversity, and encourages the production of organically-grown fruit and vegetables. The use of greenhouses and polytunnels is allowed in order to extend the growing season and allow a wider variety of produce. There are also some half-plots for those who may find the cultivation of a whole plot too demanding.
The Association participates in the villages’ annual Open Gardens Day in aid of Katharine House Hospice to show local people the work of their members and to help to raise money for a worthy cause. It also encourages members to enter produce for the Colwich and Haywoods Annual Flower and Vegetable Show.
Our allotments represent a valuable amenity, providing a healthy lifestyle, good physical exercise and a great spirit of comradeship, as well as providing a regular supply of fresh, wholesome and tasty vegetables for local families.
Courtesy: Dave Robbie 2017
We have two wildlife gardens on the site. In the first just inside the main gate on the right we have tried to attract a wide biodiversity, with a pond, an insect and a hedgehog hotel.
The second Wildlife garden is adjacent to the bottom car park and is a good place to eat your picnic.
We also have two beehives in a separate location on the site