history of the allotment society - Recent History - 2000 onwards
Further plans to extend the Recycling Centre in Dark Lane began in 2002. The land, formerly occupied by Kingston House Mowers, became vacant and was acquired by the County Council. Ultimately, the intention to take further land from the Piggottshill site was dropped.
This year is a particularly sad when it is reported that at a monthly meeting of the committee Percy Bradbury has died. In June, as a consequence, two meetings were held. At the second it is decided to dedicate a cup in Percy’s name. Percy would have been very happy with that but not so at the lettings figure announced at the AGM three months later when the overall figure was a mere 74.9 per cent.
It is one of the facts of life that, come budget time, the local council of the day is very careful on what it doles out in grants to its customers, so it is with some pleasure to note that in 2002, when Chris Wilson took over from Derek Green as Chairman, that the Town Council gave the Society a grant without even looking at the accounts. How, you might ask and why?
A few months after Chris was elected there appear to be six women on the committee – the greatest number ever and was a growing reflection of the trend of fewer men being involved. In April one reads, sadly, that Roy Campfield had finally decided to leave the committee after many years as the Churchfield representative. At the AGM Aubrey Gibbard’s contribution of 16 years in the ‘Shop’ are recorded by the Chair before introducing Roger Gillett to the meeting.
The year kicks off with the inauguration of the Percy Bradbury Memorial Garden. At the AGM in September it was reported that work on Percy’s orchard had been completed and that the fruit from it would be left in the ‘Shop’ for members to share.
At the September meeting seven women are present. Aubrey Gibbard is now the new President replacing Stan White who died in January and there was an increase in the plot take-up to 92 per cent. There was mention of a newsletter and a website; SHAGS has moved into the 21st century! In October 2005, as a mark of the esteem that the society has for them, Derek Green and Pete Stevenson are given plots rent-free for life.
Joe Payne was elected as Chair
the idea of having a stall at the local Farmers’ market between July and September is mooted; this turned out to be a worthwhile undertaking as the Society greatly benefited from sales of its surplus produce. We have come a long way from handing our surpluses to the poor and needy! The stall took £500 by October.
The year is significant because it is the first time that seven women were on the committee only for this to be exceeded a year later by one more on a committee of an amazing 26 people. (In the 1970s it wasn’t unusual to have 16-18 in attendance but that was in the very tiny space that is now at the back of the ‘Shop’. It sometimes led to very intimate discussions of a non-gardening nature.)
In the summer celebrations for the Society’s 40th anniversary took place at Aldwickbury site. On a sunny day a huge old fashioned fete took place with stalls, games and, a photographic competition races, hamburgers and sausages were cooked. The fête was opened by Rosemary Farmer, the Deputy Mayor, and over 200 people came to make the afternoon a big success.
David Edgington succeeded Clennell Collingwood in the role of Chair. The Society put its foot down regarding the management of the various ponds that have sprung up on its sites. After much debate the Society won the argument and was allowed to continue along similar lines as before. There was a debate on allowing sheds on allotments and a working party is given the task to look into all aspects of security that may explain why the Piggottshill site has five representatives acting on behalf of those plot holders. SHAGS now appears to have on lease 425 plots with a waiting list of 38 and the Harpenden Rise site has 26 of these!
Towards the end of the year another group is asked to look into the society’s newsletter and it decides to continue publishing.
Women on the committee peaked at 11 out of a total of 27 – a big change compared with three or four decades earlier.
During the year a long-serving committee member, perhaps one of the longest - Brian Cooper – finally announces he is to retire whilst another, Mick Matthews, was re-elected as a steward in the shop. It was a sad occasion in May when the death of a past Chairman, Derek Green, was announced. He was a great organiser and a devoted gardener. The Society also lost the services of Rod Wheeler who had served as the Machinery Manager, saving SHAGS hundreds of pounds. The Society was always aware of the day when money would become harder to obtain from the local council who have always been very supportive, but due to government cuts there was no guarantee. At the end of 2012 the Town Council announced it was to cut our grant over a period of 5 years. This has now been reversed.
During this period there has been a change in emphasis on the way things are done. For example, if you look around the sites you will see today many different types of produce being grown, especially where fruit is concerned. The old days saw, on the whole, men growing basic vegetables; today, we see a considerable number of women and more fruit trees and/or flowers on display, and, on some sites, you will find a pond or two flourishing with wild life and aquatic vegetation. We now have a Press Secretary; a Website; a Newsletter; Education days where one learns how to cultivate; the Running of a Stall at the Local Farmers’ Market; barbecues; and, an Annual Awards Evening – all things unheard of a few years ago. Chris Wilson became the first woman to be Chair and the current Chairman, Lin Norman, is only the second. The committee comprises far less bias in favour of men and that is a good thing.
Some things never change: the minutes in 2001 contain a note about a letter that went out to a tenant whose plot has not been cultivated for two years! Sadly, in the early years of the new century the overall letting of plots was down to 74.9 per cent, and makes the decision by the town council to give the society a grant without even looking at the accounts rather surprising. That has changed as we now have a waiting list. Surprisingly, it wasn’t until 2011 that a minute shows that a limit of 30 poles would be imposed on individual holdings. Equally strange is the fact that few sheds have appeared on the sites until recently when permission was given for their erection subject to strict criteria.
This brings us fairly up to date. We now have our Awards Evening and the AGM held on separate days with separate notices sent out, unlike all those years ago when rents and AGM coincided. The committee and the site reps have within their ambit: Health & Safety, ponds, sheds, first aid, financial planning, including the obtaining of relevant grants, and structures on plots, regular inspections and improvement plans if a plot is badly maintained.
In 2012 the Town Council passed total responsibility to the Society for the management of the sites and we are now free to decide what happens on our allotments. The role of the site representative has become more important. The ethos had also changed and the committee decided to give talks on how to look after site machinery or teach new arrivals the fundamentals of gardening – something that would have been passed on within the family environment in previous days.
The number of matters dealt with through the medium of a working party increased fivefold; the time consumed in servicing the society’s machinery had increased to such an extent that outside help was needed from time to time and eventually the job was outsourced to a small private company.
This brings us fairly up to date with Lin Norman in the role as Chair. and the AGM held on separate days from rent renewals, with separate notices sent out, unlike all those years ago when rent renewals and the AGM coincided. We have introduced regular site inspections and improvement plans if a plot is badly maintained, and we now have an annual Awards Evening with a system of awards for Best Plot; Best Site; the plot holder’s Gold; Silver; and, Bronze certificates (with over 70 people attending in 2013).
Such work is almost entirely undertaken on a voluntary basis and is a true reflection of the local community in which we live and the good efforts of the Society’s members.