Mike Edmondson receives a cheque from Donna Martin from the Asda Community Fund: a contribution towards equipment for the community plot.
Nutgrove Allotments is in Thatto Heath, St Helens. The address is;
The Reservoir, Main Avenue (off Scholes Lane), Thatto Heath, St Helens.
We are one of 18 allotment sites owned by St Helens Council. Each allotment is between 200 and 300 square metres in area, this being a typical size for an allotment. In 2013 the annual cost of an allotment at Nutgrove is around £55.
The 23 allotments that make up the site are in a single row alongside the distinctive old sandstone wall at the top of the impressive Thatto Heath railway cutting. On the side of the allotments away from the railway is an enclosed reservoir built into the sandstone at the top of the hill. This hill is the highest point in St Helens so the allotments are exposed to the wind, particularly from the east. The rock beneath the plots is red sandstone and as a result the soil is easy to work and is slightly acidic. The railway cutting was made in 1861 when the line from Liverpool to Wigan was built.The sheer sandstone walls have a good selection of Bryophytes, Pteridophytes, and growing on them.
The site was established at some time between 1930 and 1945. Research into the details is ongoing. Several people have said that in the early 1950s St Austin's school, very close the site had plot 22, and that the children enjoyed growing vegetables there, particularly as it got them out of school. We are at the moment preparing a community plot on the site which will be used again by St Austin's School.
Nearly all the plotholders live within one mile of the site, and most of us are much closer than this so it is very much a community site.
The plotholders are from a wide range of backgrounds, ages and abilities. As might be expected for an allotment site, the age range of the plotholders is skewed towards the older end. The oldest plotholder is ninety years old, while at the other end of the scale, several young families are involved in working plots. One plotholder has been on the site since 1962.
When the Plotholders’ Association was formed in 2005, there were several vacant and badly overgrown plots. Others were only partially cultivated. The general impression in 2005 was one of a degree of dereliction. There was an influx of new plotholders starting in the summer of 2006. In my case I was surprised that the time between applying for a plot and being allocated one was only about three months. This would be unheard of now. The downside of taking over a derelict plot was that it was a complete wilderness of coarse grasses, brambles, dock, nettles and so on.
The influx of new plotholders and the setting up of the Plotholders' Association resulted in significant improvements to the site. This process is continuing with the help of a 5 year management plan. The initial objectives have nearly all been achieved, We are now in a position to increase our involvement with the community and are in the process of raising the funsing to develop a coomunity plot, provide wheelchair access to the site and put a classroom on the community plot.
By 2009, all the plots were occupied and under cultivation. Most of us concentrate on growing vegetables and salad crops with an interesting selection of flowers on several of the plots.
We have recently installed a composting toilet on site, enabling us to invite people onto the allotments.We have also raised a significant amount of funding for improved fencing around the site. This has increased security and made a major improvement to the appearance of the site.
Meetings of the Association
The Association meets on the first Tuesday of every month (except January) at 8.00pm at the Brown Edge in Nutgrove Road, Thatto Heath.
How to apply for a plot
The idea of growing your own food has become more popular in recent years and as a result, in St Helens as in most places, there is a long waiting list for plots. in September 2011 there are 36 people on the waiting list for Nutgrove allotments.
You can add your name to the waiting list for an allotment by ringing St Helens Council on 01744 456789 and nominating a site that you are interested in.