Ambleside Road Allotment site differs from a traditional allotment site in many ways. For instance, it has created many communal facilities, e.g. polytunnels, compost toilet and tool store, implemented to make the best use of a small site, but also to encourage plootholders to come together as a community and share experience, skills & resources.
The allotment site is completely organic site - plots do not use any chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilisers. By growing crops organically we:
• Reduce pollution and damage to the environment
• Protect local wildlife and promote biodiversity
• Reduce the amount of chemicals consumed in food production.
• Helped conserve natural resources and reduce climate change
• Create a healthy, living soil.
• Grow some really tasty and healthy food!
Off The Ground has also built two large communal polytunnels for plotholders to propagate seedlings and grow more tender crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and even melons! Rainwater is harvested from the polytunnel roofs and other structures which enables all plotholder's crops to be watered as thre is no mains water on site. There are also several communal composting areas for recycling all our organic waste for use on site. In addition to this all plotholders are encouraged to harvest rainwater on their plots and produce their own compost.
At 6m x 6m square the plots are smaller than 'traditional' allotment plots to ensure that as many people are enabled to grow as possible. Each plot is manageable for new growers whilst still producing enough to feed their families. Off The Ground have provided growing advice, training and practical hands-on support for plotholders to help them make the most of their space.
The site also has 6 'starter plots' which measure 1m x 5m to give new growers the opportunity to develop their skills and experience before graduating to a full plot. There is also 1 plot which is fully wheelchair accessible.
Another feature on-site is a compost toilet with built-in comfrey bed, which ensures that plotholders are able to 'go' when on site, but also means that all waste produced is recycled back onto site.
There is also an edible hedgerow, designed and planted by plotholders, consisting of two hundred metres of perennial fruit and herbs.
The Edible Hedgerow was funded by Awards for All, and enables all plotholders to share in the maintenance and harvest of produce. Robin Eyre has written a booklet detailing the work done on Edible Hedgerow (planted as a Linear Forest Garden) - please click on the image below to download this as PDF.
The Off The Ground team have also run regular 'task days' to encourage plotholders to work together to maintain the communal areas of the site. For example, a 'spring clean your polytunnel' event and 'edging your hedgerow' days have been held.
Over the entire three years of the project Off The Ground staff have also supported the development of an independent allotment association which takes on the management of the site by April 2013.
Off The Ground staff also developed two demonstration plots: The Organic Plot where we grow organic annual vegetables and The Forest Garden plot where we grow a range of edible perennial plants.
The site has won two RHS North West in Bloom 'It's Your Neighbourhood' Level 4 Thriving awards (2011 & 2012). The compost toilet also won 2nd place in the Permaculture Association "Best Compost Loo in the World Award 2012".
Here are some quotes from Ambleside Road plotholders about Off The Ground and our work:
"Accessible, friendly and knowledgeable"
"Very accessible, helpful, approachable and friendly"
"Affordable, decent sized plots, nicely set out with communal areas"
"[I have learnt...] more than I could have hoped"