Coton Hill Allotments – First visit

30 Jan

I have been commissioned along with Mairi Turner to document the development of a new allotment site at Corporation Lane, Coton Hill on the outskirts of Shrewsbury. 

The project is being developed by a group of volunteers, who gathered together from an initiative started by Transition Town Shrewsbury.  The group has received help from the Council’s community regeneration officer and having received a grant from the Shrewsbury Local Joint Committee, they formed the Coton Hill Allotments Association.  The group has secured an 8 year lease from the landowner, the Berwick Estates. 

My first visit to the site was to meet Simon Howard and some of the team on Saturday 30th July 2011, a hot and humid day. 

There was to be no work that day on the site, but it gave me an opportunity to discuss the project with Simon and hear about the vision for the project.

Simon hoped to get some plots ready for renting towards the end of 2011.  A ground works contractor was to be appointed to assist with the early development works.  Some site clearance had been done already to cut the worst of the thick grass and nettles, remove a large pile of scrap metal, grub some trees and bushes, and take down an old concrete structure, there remained significant work to create an access road, clear more vegetation, secure fencing, put up a shed and bring in water supply. 

The site slopes from the single lane track down into a low lying area, which apparently drains satisfactorily.  Whilst not steeply sloping, I would have thought that some cut and fill may be necessary to make the plots more terraced.  The soil looks good.

Simon plans to create plots that will be smaller (“back garden size) and more manageable than “standard” allotment plots.  This should help encourage people new to allotment gardening and may not be so intimidating or challenging as the full size plots.  In time, it is hoped that the allotments association can get involved with Greenfields School, so that kids can participate.  There is a plan to have a community garden and communal shed on the site.  It is also hoped to set up a mentoring scheme whereby experienced gardeners can provide assistance to others just starting out.

My first impressions of the site were that it has a wonderful, peaceful atmosphere and beautiful views across open land and patches of mixed deciduous and coniferous woodland.  I saw a bird of prey with a bell, presumably escaped its keeper, and also saw some other bird of prey, possibly a buzzard.  I heard and then saw a woodpecker in an adjacent wood, and noticed the huge number of rabbits (which will surely be a challenge for the allotments). 

I had a sense of the rich ecological diversity and fertility of the land.  It is an inspirational place and I am really looking forward to seeing how the project develops over the next 12 months or so.

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