Years ago the site association insisted that two office bearers go and argue the case against a proposed increase of about 1 a year, pleading that most of the plotholders were pensioners. The council official caved in and said that her time per hour was worth more than the increase we were fighting. I'm going to stick my neck out and say that I think the rent I pay for my allotment is a bargain.
Time was when one side of the site paid 50p less rent than the other because of overhanging trees. This difference was hotly debated at the annual general meeting and the 50p reduction hung on a majority from that side attending and voting for its continuation. These days we all pay the same.
Rents vary throughout the country, but then so do the facilities provided. Some sites have communal huts, toilets, rotovators and strimmers, and other sites don't even have a tap. Necessity being the mother of invention, plotholders have come up with some ingenious solutions. A Heath Robinson arrangement of secondhand solar panels powering a pump provides water for one site. To supplement the finances on our site, we compiled a cookery book of our favourite recipes using allotment produce. It turned out to be a runaway success and the association bank balance has remained quite healthy ever since. We're now considering a second edition.
The way I look at it, my allotment rent provides me with about ten hours of exercise a week, come rain or shine, winter and summer. Unlike a gym, I don't need any special clothes. Rather the reverse. My allotment gear is tough, old, often threadbare, and bottom of the fashion stakes. Most days I am not alone and enjoy a chat. I appreciate the wildlife – last week it was a greenfinch finishing off the sunflower seeds. And while I am on the plot, I don't think my house gets much dustier and the heating is certainly turned off. With luck, I can provide my family and friends with a terrific array of fresh fruit and veg for an outlay of less than 1 a week.
This article was first published in The Scotsman on Saturday 09 January, 2010.