With the general lack of outdoor space in south west London, allotments are hidden gems that can bring us closer to nature.
The only problem is that the average time you’ll spend on a waiting list could be as long as 10 years according to Merton Council.
Harriet Edwards spent seven years on the waiting list for an allotment in Cannizaro Park, Wimbledon.
Harriet said: “We have had our allotment now for 8 or 9 years, having been on a waiting list for about 7 years. The incentive for waiting this long was really just the urge to produce things ourselves, and make a small contribution to the environment.”
Allotment owners believe it is well worth the wait, particularly emphasizing the mental, social and physical benefits they have reaped from maintaining their plots over the years.
Barbara Aldridge, 72, a retired teacher, has owned an allotment for 40 years and has used it as a substitute for her lack of garden since moving into a flat.
Barbara said: “My first allotment was Putney Vale, which I got about 40 years ago. I came to the Cannizaro site about 30 years ago.
“I had always loved gardening and we had moved into a flat, and I was really missing being in touch with the soil.”
She also spoke on how beneficial being around nature has been for her mental and physical well-being.
“I would say that having an allotment is crucial for my mental health – I have been known to come down after a hard day and just sit and absorb the feel of it, and somehow being in touch with the soil releases tension, clears your mind and lifts spirits.”
“It is physically beneficial too, as it is active & can be quite hard work: load bearing, aerobic, plenty of stretches – you could say it is good general workout – but can be taxing on the back!”
While the idea of maintaining an allotment appeals to many Londoners, once the reality of the time and physical workload required sets in, it can often dampen the initial zest and drive new owners have for their plots.
Barbara explained: “You can’t under-estimate the amount of work required – I have seen many people start with great enthusiasm but drift off when they realise how many hours you have to put in to keep an allotment going.
“My current allotment is 7 rods: approximately 90 feet by 15 feet. In the summer I go down there 4-5 times a week – or more, this time of year maybe once or twice.”
Having an allotment during the disruptions of the last two years has been particularly beneficial.
Harriet believes being able to go out her allotment during lockdown was crucial to maintaining some order in her life.
She said: “It has been particularly enjoyable to have this facility during lockdown, to give us extra outdoor time and some distanced socialising.”