New Allotments for Presteigne after 50 Year Wait
by Lin Scrannage
There were allotments in Presteigne until the 1960s, when Beeching closed down local railway networks and the station, line and allotments were all disposed of to make way for a new road. There has been a waiting list for many years, but 18 months ago a chain of events was set in motion by a newcomer to the town who felt so passionately about the benefits to a community that a well-run allotment site could bring that she set about making it happen.
Networking with likeminded people was the first step - to get a committed small group of interested gardeners together who wouldn't be afraid of putting a lot of time and energy into all the meetings with
local councillors and letter-writing to MP's and Welsh Assembly members that would be necessary. They affiliated themselves with the NSALG, who offer legal help to members and provide templates for the practicalities of getting a site up and running. With the backing of this experienced organization, the allotment group was able to give a presentation to the local government officers that persuaded them to give their support to the project.
Then followed a lengthy process of identifying potential sites in and around the town (we felt it was important to try to get somewhere that people could reach without getting in their cars). Landowners were approached, parcels of 'charity land' were looked, at and the council considered buying land on the market; in all 30 sites were investigated -without success.
The final solution came from the town council, which itself owns a large recreational meadow for the people of the town to use. A section of this has been earmarked for the new allotment site. It will yield 35 quarter (60 sq.mts.) plots and, happily, there have been 35 written applications. The land has now been ploughed, and in mid March there will be a big celebration!
There are plans for the future: an allotment site is so much more than just a space for growing vegetables. It provides the basis for a community in which to work and play, and, as such, contains the 'social glue' that is lacking in so many of the towns and cities of today. Presteigne belongs to the Transition Town network, and grass-roots food related projects are already being discussed. A community orchard is being planted close by, there is an idea for an organic beekeeping project, and we hope to have open-air cookery workshops on site, using the fantastic organic produce that will be growing there this summer.
Anyone who needs help setting up a new allotment site can look at our website on: