American Interest In Britain's Allotments

Posted on: 20 June 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Michael Wale finds the re-located Olympic allotmenteers angry, and is visited on his own plot by American television.

At the weekend, the folk who were evicted from the 100-year-old Manor Garden allotments so that Lord Coe and his mates could build a four week concrete pathway to the London Olympics, held an open day to show what a mess the London Development Agency have made of their enforced move.

The temporary site, to be used until after the 2012 Olympics, when allegedly under the much vaunted legacy plan they will move back to somewhere near their original site.

Ironically the temporary site is situated on Marsh Lane Fields, in Leyton. because the flooding that has regularly taken place. Julie Sumner fought her corner and the battle became famous all over the world.

Your 50connect correspondent also spoke and rabble roused in the East End, even approaching the blessed Lord Coe at Windsor races one evening, much to my wife’s embarrassment.  But actionists have to take action, and in England we are becoming too supine. Julie fought a great fight, even being banned from taking her own onions into the then Red Ken ruled City Hall in London to a meeting about it all because of ‘security reasons’.

As I said to my rowing crew the other day when a rigger sheared on the way to the start of a big race, and we had to swap boats and race in an awful boat, ‘out of adversity comes success.’  Churchillian to the last!  But it also applies to the battle all of us in the inner cities have about the developers who want our land.

Anyway the American national TV company NBC made a very thorough examination of my own allotment under the Acton Gardening Association banner. They explained to me that more and more people in America, but especially within the big cities, wanted to grow their own food, and they wanted to know about the allotment movement in Britain.  Wonderful; I never expected it to happen.

Unlike past visits from ITV and BBC, the American visit was so thorough, and they were actually interested in the history and what was going on now.  It will be available to all 50Connect followers as soon as it goes out in America and we will publish the link as soon as we get word from across the Atlantic.

The encouraging thing about all this is that the British allotment movement is being recognized worldwide, which is precisely what I urged Lord Coe to acknowledge, when I pleaded for a heritage allotment site to be kept so that we could tell the world about Churchill’s 'Dig For Victory' campaign. vWe could have had videos, meals on site, we would have fed the smallest nation competing, in what Red Ken and failed Tory MP Lord Coe had labeled the Green Olympics in order to win what they wanted. But no. That was the end of Green. Now it’s down to drug testing.

Meanwhile, unfortunately, all is not well with those displaced persons from Manor Gardens. It was shameful enough to destroy a 100 year old piece of British history, but the alternative site has proved a disaster.

Julie Sumner reports that a third of the plots aren’t workable, because of flooding.

"Out of 83 people only 63 moved. The place where we had been put had not been constructed properly. It is the wrong sort of soil for horticulture.  Under the Freedom of Information Act we found that it has cost £2.3 million to move us. It cost £1.8m to build the site," she tells me. 

"As far as this site is concerned you could not have put potatoes in this season because they would have rotted with all the land water.”

None of this surprises me.  And if the Government has spent £4m to move the East End Allotmenteers - then it's not wonder why it is so over budget.  What is going on in England?

Thankfully the new Mayor, Boris Johnson, claims to be Green and is extremely annoyed about the Olympic over budget. It has never been thought out. Lord Coe lost one of the safest Tory seats in England and has yet always been promoted. Of course, he was a wonderful runner, but that is all. Sportsmen are not known for the best brains.

At least America is getting wise about inner city growing, and is now listening to us. I find that very encouraging. Maybe they will teach us a thing or two - for a change! 

Is your allotment under attack from city developers?  Have you been affected by the 2012 London Olympics?  Do you have an opinion about the amount it cost to move the East End Allotmenteers?   Leave your comments below and share your views with other in the forums.

Share with friends


You need to be signed in to rate.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned!