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Cambridge Allotments Newsletter No. 26 - 4th February 2000

CONTENTS: Allotment Societies Annual General Meeting, Habitat Action Plan for Allotments Latest, Empty Common Allotments News, Allotments Network keeps city supplied with fresh local produce, Elfleda Road update, Forthcoming Events.


24 representatives from allotment sites around the city attended the AGM of the Cambridge Central Council of Allotments Societies (also now referred to as Cambridge Allotments Network) on Monday 31st January. Reports from the joint Secretaries, Treasurer, Auditor and Trading officers were given. An appeal was made for people to use their allotment trading services to help with society finances and to obtain cheaper gardening sundries (if yours does not have one contact your next nearest society as some have associate membership schemes). There was an update of the Elfleda Road issue including recent discussions to try to resolve the long-

running planning battle. Officers were re-elected and it was decided to have a rotating chairman (someone from a different Society each meeting). A representative from the Nuffield Road site reported that the first use of money, raised at the Farmers’ Market, had been put to good use by leafleting homes around the recently rationalised allotment site. Various suggestions were made for the siting of a notice board, funded by the Sustainable City Grant, somewhere in the city advertising the position of allotment sites and contact details.


The latest draft of this document, aimed at improving sites for wildlife in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, has been completed. This comprehensive document covers the historic context of allotments, species found, current action to enhance sites for wildlife, links with Local Agenda 21, objectives and longterm targets and so on. By the year 2010 it is hoped that managers of allotments will have implemented widely agreed wildlife-friendly management plans on 75% of allotments in the county. Other proposed targets include; community composting schemes on 50% of sites using Local Authority’s excess bark-chippings, provision of buffer zones adjacent to water courses, woodland and other sites of high biodiversity value. Promotion of wildlife schemes by individual allotment holders on their own plots is another aspect. Organisations to be involved are Allotment Societies, Local Authorities, Cambridgeshire County Council, Wildlife Trust, English Nature and the Environment Agency. Contact; Helen Hepburn, Planning Department, Cambridge City Council. The Guildhall, Cambridge CB2 3QJ or see


Related to the article above, wildlife improvement work has recently taken place at Empty Common allotments, near Brooklands Avenue. This pleasant 1.31-hectare site now has a new hedge and hazel coppice area thanks to a small group of allotment holders from the site who carried out planting work on 16th December last, with Anthony French and a work crew from the City Council. The hedge consists of English natives - hawthorn, hazel, dog rose, and field maple to name a few. This now delineates the edge of cultivated allotment land. One hundred hazel whips were also planted close to the hedge and mulched with bark-chippings. Six allotments in total are being converted into the Nature Area due to a bad infestation of horsetail, a very persistent perennial weed that is difficult to eradicate.

Next there are plans for a small orchard consisting of traditionally locally grown fruit trees. The planting of old and rare varieties of local varieties will help to preserve them and is important for biodiversity. Fruit trees, especially old ones, are particularly good habitats for many insects, birds and other wildlife. Research from Brogdale Horticultural Trust, which is home for 2300 of the 4000 known apple varieties, indicates a number of suitable Cambridgeshire varieties: - Annie Elizabeth, Laxtons, Blenheim Orange, Chiver's Delight, Cottenham Seedling, Emneth Early (aka Early Victoria), Green Harvey, Haggerstone Pippin, Histon Favourite, Hunter's Majestic, Lord Peckover, Lynn's Pippin, Morleys' Seedling, Murfitt's Seedling, New Rock Pippin,Red Victoria, Saint Everard, Wayside. Plus the plum variety Cambridge Gage.

Empty Common is regarded as an extremely important green space linking other green spaces within the city. The site was previously a common but brought into allotment use during the war but is still well used and maintained. An attractive photo of the site and contacts can be seen at the Cambridge Allotments Network website

NOTE; The organisation Common Ground is particularly active in promoting the planting of Community Orchards as many orchards and old varieties have been lost over the years as they became commercially uneconomic. Cambridgeshire, in particular, was a main commercial fruit growing area until quite recently when many were grubbed out. The group wants to revive an interest in fruit growing, provide a way of sharing knowledge and horticultural skills and stimulate people into growing food for themselves again. For leaflet with advice on creating new community orchards and conserving old ones contact Common Ground on 0171 267 2144. Their Community Orchards Officer, Dan Keech, can give advice. 


Thanks to Audrey, Mike and Dave for another day's allotment promotion at the Farmers' Market on 30 January. Several potential new allotmenteers found inspiration and information by chancing across our stall. We could easily have sold triple the amount of produce we had, but of course fresh local veg. is scare right now. Ours was the only produce stall there, so it's well worth supporting our non-commercial venture. Please remember this year any surplus produce can be put to a good cause and any extra that can be grown for the stall will be most appreciated. Surplus plants for planting out, such as brassicas, leeks, lettuces, etc., could also be sold especially in spring when produce is a bit scarce.

Lots more used carrier bags are needed for the stall. If you've saved more than you need please offer some via e-mail; or (even better!) drop them in at the next Farmers' Market on the 13th February. Thanks!

If anyone knows a local grower who might like to take a stall at the Farmers' Market, please put them in touch with the Council's market organiser - e-mail;



Cambridge United Football Club have put in revised plans for their stadium redevelopment to the City Council. The land required has been reduced by 7.8–9.2 metres. Plans can be seen at the Planning Department Reception and any comments must be given by 16th Feb. The application will be returned to the Planning Sub-Committee on 8 March 2000. Talks between football officials and the Whitehill Allotments Society have also recently taken place to try to reach a compromise.

There has been more coverage in the Cambridge Evening News during the last week; Thursday’s News land (‘Club offers cash to allotment holders’) mentioned the recent talks to resolve the problem, offer compensation for displaced plotholders and discuss the new proposals that will use less. A letter on the same day (‘Be fair to planners who see both sides’) by Councillor John Hipkin, Member of the Planning Sub-committee, explained the need to consider everyone’s views and how planners have tried to resolve the dispute by dialogue as in other planning cases.

More letters from football supporters were published. One letter had a footnote from local MP Anne Campbell who said she had intervened by writing to all the members of the Planning Sub-

Committee to get them to agree to Cambridge United's revised planning application (her views on the value of allotments and their future survival remain unknown - Perhaps letters or e-mails would help). ‘Gardening 'obsession' is allot of nonsense, Mr South’ was the title of another letter, in reply to Christopher South’s recent comments supporting the allotments. "Why are only half of the 200 plots at the rear of the Abbey Stadium being used, a situation which has existed for some considerable time?" was asked.

The number of plots cultivated or vacant quoted by people seems to varies enormously! SOME FACTS; At the 1998 City Council Review of Allotments, vacancies at Elfleda Road site were only 12%. This has since dropped to about 10% on the site overall. In the area coveted by CUFC, 14 of the 19 plots are now let. This shows the enthusiasm of local gardeners despite the uncertain future of these plots. Vacancies in the area affected are much less than that being quoted by some ill-informed commentators.

Perhaps it is time that many of the comments in the local media were balanced by those who know something about allotments and, in particular, the site affected. Have your say!……… Cambridge Evening News; Winship Road, Milton, Cambridge, CB4 6PP or e-mail or use the online form via  BBC Radio Cambridgeshire (FM96): Daily phone-in on Gerald Main’s Breakfast Programme (weekdays) from approx. 8.30–9.30am Tel: 0645 252000 or e-mail Gerald with comments on  Sports programmes also have phone-ins : Fridays from 6.00-7.00pm and on Saturday Sport programme approx. 5-6pm.


Also Anne Campbell MP; Alex Wood Hall, Norfolk Street, Cambridge CB1 2LD Tel. 506500 or E-mail; Website: 

----------------FORTHCOMING EVENTS-----------------

Sunday 13th Feb. from 10.30am Farmers’ Market stall to advertise allotment plots and sell surplus produce. Offers of help and donations please! E-mail: Tel: 01223 563856.

POTATOES ARE COMING! Another welcome sign of spring approaching! Seed potatoes ordered via CCCAS will be delivered to the allotment sites on Sat 5th and Sat 12th February.


TOPICAL TIPS Southerly winds, temperatures up to 12 deg C and the soil surface drying out briefly brought a hint of spring at the weekend. With snowdrops and crocuses now in full flower, song thrushes and other birds singing away it is now time to start preparing for the new season. However, beware, a cold snap sometime in February often slows everything down again! Clear plastic covered over areas where the first sowings are to be made will help warm up the soil. Hardy broad beans (e.g. Aquadulce Claudia, The Sutton), round-seeded peas (e.g. Meteor) and parsnips can be sown if soil conditions are right or under cloches if you have them. Under glass, various crops can be sown for planting out later and to get some crops a week or so earlier (e.g. parsley, lettuces, summer varieties of cabbage such as Greyhound or Spitfire). Sow a little and often just in case a sudden blast of cold easterly winds from Siberia take their toll!


124 people currently subscribe to this newsletter. Feel free to print copies off and distribute to email-less plot holders and please ensure there's a copy on your site noticeboard. We welcome contributions for the newsletter! Please send allotment and gardening-related stories, notice of local events, topical tips, and any hot news from your site to e-mail :  **The HTML format of the archived newsletters in makes for better-printed copies on most systems. Disclaimer; Information is supplied in good faith and is accurate to our best knowledge. No responsibility accepted for inaccuracies or misunderstandings.

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