Broad Oak Park Allotment

Allotment Gardening as a Collective Enterprise

As a lecturer in human geography I’m interested in how people relate to the environment. For a couple of years now, as well as helping to tend my family’s allotment patch at Broad Oak Park, I’ve spent my day job working on funded projects that explore the nature of our connection to the environment through activities like gardening. Perhaps unbeknownst to you, allotment gardening has been studied by social researchers interested in how gardening and growing contribute to health and well-being. Research has been produced on the types of physical, emotional and social benefits that can accrue through working the land, both alone and together. My research has found that the benefits of gardening are not just private; they extend beyond the individual, and even challenge us to think of the allotment as a public space that can generate social benefit. Allotment gardens are rich in their potential here. Consider a few of these examples: at the allotment we gift excess seeds and produce to our neighbours; we share knowledge and skills; we chatter and natter about the state of our fruit and veg; we tend to plants if our neighbours are away; and, we show concern if fellow gardeners haven’t been seen for a while. All are social actions vital to the health of the plot and our well-being. David Crouch and Colin Ward, authors of The Allotment: Its Landscape and Culture, wrote about the allotment stimulating metaphors about the way we might live and the social aspects of allotment gardening are very much to the fore in their study . As well as the mundane drudgery of weeding and watering and the back-breaking mornings spent forking and raking, allotments they argue are also about friendships, family gathering, and mutual help. They are perhaps less as a space of private retreat and more a form of collective enterprise.
It’s great to see the Broad Oak Park Allotment Association being formed and officially constituted. There is work to be done in getting members involved in improving and promoting the site, and I, no doubt like others at the site, welcome opportunities for growing together.
If anyone’s interested in reading more about my research you can take a look at the following websites – or - otherwise I’m happy to chat to anyone interested in the research when I’m at the allotment
Paul Gilchrist (plot 16)

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