Enjoying the fruit of their labours

Picture: Malcolm McCurrach
Picture: Malcolm McCurrach
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But allotments offer a great deal more, writes Olga Clayton

Allotments were once the retreat of silver-haired gardeners with Thermos flasks making the most of their retirement.

Once a hidden little pocket of sanctuary for an older generation, allotments are enjoying a new lease of life with young people and families keen to get their hands dirty and enjoy the benefits of being outdoors.

Wheatley Group – Scotland’s leading housing, care and community regeneration organisation – is working with tenants to create allotment and community gardens.

We want all tenants – whether they live on the ground floor of a tenement or the 28th floor of a multi-storey – to have the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors.

Why is Wheatley Group keen on promoting community gardens and allotments? At Wheatley we’re all about “Making homes and lives better” and through projects such as these we can provide life-changing benefits for our customers.

Community gardens and allotments are helping tenants of GHA, Cube Housing Association and Loretto Housing Association – all part of Wheatley Group – get into the fresh air and lead healthier lives.

And, as well as providing nutritious food, gardens and allotments help bring people together and create a real sense of community spirit.

From brightening up back courts to getting people into the fresh air and learning about healthy eating, gardens and allotments help GHA, Cube and Loretto build stronger, healthier communities. Allotments also help combat rising food bills, a concern for our communities, many in some of the country’s poorest neighbourhoods.

A community allotment in Sandyhills, in the north-east of Glasgow, is proving so successful tenants are making soup for their neighbours with the vegetables they grow. With the help of a former chef who lives in one of the blocks, tenants share the food they grow by cooking free hearty soup every week for residents.

Margaret Reidford, chair of the Sandyhills High Flats Tenants’ Association, said: “It’s important to get out and meet people. We arrange barbecues for residents to help people mix. One of our tenants is a former chef at Gleneagles and he makes soup every week. It makes for a community that works together and helps each other.”

A GHA community in Scotstoun is thriving following a multi-million pound investment in the area. At the heart of the neighbourhood is a popular community garden at the base of one of the blocks.

GHA tenants in Germiston and Royston enjoy the fruits of their labour, with residents growing potatoes, onions, strawberries and other fruit and vegetables.

Elsewhere in the city, Loretto Housing tenants in Barmulloch are being supported to transform their backcourts. A new residents’ group is helping breathe new life into the neighbourhood including a garden area. In the Wyndford estate in Maryhill, Cube tenants have had training in horticulture, gardening and wildlife to make the most of the green space.

However, the benefits extend far beyond food. Isolation is one of the biggest issues for tenants, particular the elderly. For people living on their own, days and weeks can pass without any interaction with other residents.

Allotments and community gardens bring people together, regardless of their age, race, nationality or sex, and provide a common purpose and meeting place to get residents engaging.

They require care and attention and provide free, regular exercise for tenants who wish to get fit and enjoy the great outdoors.

Growing your own vegetables and living a self-sufficient lifestyle is, of course, not a new phenomenon. Those of a certain vintage will remember the trials and tribulations of Richard Briers and Felicity Kendal in the 1970s sitcom The Good Life.

Since then, many people have followed in the muddy bootprints of Tom and Barbara without the drama of Margot and Jerry living next door.

But the demand is great. According to a recent report, there are around 4,600 people on allotment waiting lists in Scotland’s four main cities and they face a wait of up to ten years as there are only around 7,500 available plots. That is the challenge Wheatley Group and other organisations face.

Tenants old and young, male and female, singles or families are keen on their own small bit of the great outdoors and the benefits it brings. Whether it’s the 1970s or 2015, everyone wants a piece of the good life.

Olga Clayton, Wheatley Group director of housing and care. www.wheatley-group.com