Where to Start
Unless you know someone in your area who already has a plot then Google is your best friend. Specifically looking for details on your local council website. Searching for ‘allotments’ and the name of your area should bring you to a page that looks something like this.
The page should contain a map or list of allotment sites in the area and details of the application process.
Types of Site
There are three types of allotment site. Statutory sites which are protected by law, a temporary site where the land is leased or rented and private sites which are usually owned by the church.
Sites will either run by the council or self managed. Council run is just that, although there is likely to a site secretary that liaises with the council as needed. Self managed will have its own fully functioning committee and be responsible for managing the site on a day to day basis. The leases should be the same and the codes of conduct very similar.
I have heard good arguments for and against both types of management, however what is desirable in either instance is for it to be accessible, proactive and fair. You’ll get to look at the site before taking on a plot and is worth discussing how things are run with whoever shows you around. The condition of the site in general is also a good indicator of how well things managed and if you get the opportunity to talk to any plot holders whilst you are there, then do.
What else to consider
I am in envy at the picturesque location of some sites and in fact looked very seriously at one not far from here positioned between a park and a river. The only access to the plots was via a lengthy foot path, thankfully sense prevailed.
Hillingdon Council tell me that having a plot within walking distance of your home is the biggest single factor determining success. I do appreciate that this is not always possible but I think as close as you can is good.
Can you leave your car close to the entrance? So I know I make the point about walking distance but if you want to ‘pop in’ quickly or in the Winter, when it’s raining you will probably want to take the car.
Can you drive onto the site to deliver heavy materials such as bags of compost to your plot? If not is there a trolly or a wheelbarrow to help you move things around?
We always keep the gates on our site locked and our boundary is fully fenced. I am often working alone on our site and of course want to feel safe. In addition there may be things that you want to leave on your plot with minimum risk.
A word on waiting lists
This is a tough one when you’re all fired up and raring to go but the fact is in some areas of the country plots are in very short supply and if there none available you may be asked to join a waiting list. In the interim you could consider taking a plot at another site, of course this depends what it is you want to grow and how much investment you’re prepared to put into something you might only keep for a year or two. Other alternatives are growing cooperatives. Your local community centre is good place to look for these or The Federation of City Farms & Community Gardens, alternatively there is the Landshare initiative which matches those who want growing space with those who have land to spare.