When food was grown on The Meadows in Edinburgh

It is now more associated with lazy days in the park and student gatherings.

It is now more associated with lazy days in the park and student gatherings.

But The Meadows in Edinburgh was once a key food production centre after large parts of the open space were ploughed for cultivation during both world wars.

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During WWII alone, 512 emergency allotments sprung up across The Meadows, with a concentration of gardeners working on the east side of the park.

Edinburgh embraced the wartime Dig for Victory campaign to combat food shortages with emergency allotments also appearing in Balgreen Park, Bruntsfield Links and Joppa Quarry with parts of Craigentinny Golf Course also turned over to vegetable production.

Allotment holders were encouraged to grow crops such as leeks and kale, with a drive for gardeners to plant potatoes in 1948 as wartime rationing continued to pinch households.

By by the height of WWII, the city had given over almost 300 acres for cultivation with keen plot holders applying to St Andrew’s House for a coveted space.

Experts from The Botanic Gardens were dispatched to The Meadows, which cover the site of the drained Burgh Loch, to issue advice to growers.

Seeds and plants remained in short supply, however, and supplies of grass seeds dried up completely given it was used heavily to sow runways across the country.

The allotments on The Meadows were in place until the mid-1960s with newspaper clippings revealing some resistance to the continued use of allotments in the park.

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One letter in The Scotsman on Monday, December 11 1950 said: “It might be perhaps thought that the public was indifferent to this continued infringement of the liberties and amenities of the majority by the interests of a very few.”

“Surely there can be no reason for continuing these allotments.

“Those of them which are cultivated seem to concentrate upon the growing of vegetables which are now in plentiful supply.”

The correspondence continues to call for the return of the once-open space to benefit the wider public, particularly children.

Another correspondent in June of that year claimed the plots were “offensive to the eye and the nose” with visitors to Edinburgh Festival said to be unimpressed by the growing plots so close to the city centre.

The number of allotments fell away in Scotland following the end of WWII from around 90,000 at the peak of the Dig for Victory campaign to 36,000 plots.

Edinburgh remained proud of its allotment tradition, however, and gave allotments to the unemployed and elderly to promote healthy eating and activity.

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