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Wellington Fields Allotments - Hixon.


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Compost Storage Area

It is probably true to say that all Allotments encourage Plot Holders to use Compost Heaps, but it was decided a long time ago to have Communal ones on our Allotments. At first we only had relatively small bins made from Pallets and then decided a few years ago to get the land owner, a local farmer, to build us some bigger ones that would go much longer between the need to empty them. When the farmer constructed them he did so in a way that enabled his big Manitu digger to be used to empty them. This cut down on the work for us in maintenance and made everyone more enthusiastic about using them. However, many Plot Holders still took their waste home whilst others built their own Compost Heaps. Many used ready made plastic bins and a lot of people used Pallets whereas my own is of a lot more solid and permanent construction.
We found that where people have their own Compost Bins they readily use the Compost they produce, but we also found that after the construction of our Communal people were reluctant to use the end product and many loads were taken away from the site at first. We realised that each bin full being taken away by the farmer represented several tons of soil being removed from the site each time. In effect it was soil erosion on a massive scale and we needed to do something about it, or else the top soil on the Allotments would be all but gone in a very few years. In an effort to encourage people to use the homemade compost and get it back onto the plots we needed to encourage people to use it.

The bins themselves had been working well for some time, as far as composting and disposing of peoples waste, but rather than just dumping the compost in an untidy heap on the corner of the car park after it had been dug out and was ready for use, we decided that we needed to build a better storage area, for it. A smartly constructed, purpose built area with a concrete base would make for easy shovelling and stop it getting scattered far and wide. We decided that the Construction could be designed to hold the several loads of Wood Chip that we got each year and that made equally as much mess, and it could also be used for the Horse Manure or Chicken manure that we also have delivered to the site. In essence all of the messy and free to use stuff for the sites Plot-Holders would be stored all in the one place where it would be tidy and easy to get at. We hoped that it would also make storage a lot easier to maintain and that with a more professionally available product our Plot-holders would understand the need to maintain its quality and would not put in so much of the rubbish that we have had in the past. They would realise that their rubbish was not just being dumped as some thought, but was being turned into a useable and even desirable, homemade compost that was free for all to use.

The storage area had much thought put into its construction and design before proper plans were drawn up by the husband of the sites secretary who was by some happy coincidence a trained and fully qualified architect. Our friendly farmer with his digger, the architect and a couple of the committee members were to be largely responsible for its construction, but there was much toing and froing with the local Parish Council before construction finally went ahead.

Funding for the project came from the Allotments own monies that had been raised over time through various events such as, an annual quiz, several plant sales, donations and commission on Seed Sales, over the years. The construction was costed out and a budget set before anything was purchased.

It was started in the spring with the farmer gathering together a number of Railway Sleepers and large ready made concrete slabs that apparently farmers use to make grain silos and other storage areas. As soon as construction started there were problems with of course the Covid 19 crisis being the most important. Things were more or less put on hold throughout the first Lock Down before they recommenced.

After the 4 big concrete sections as used on farms had been properly sited with two of them being partly buried in an upright position, the metal sectional girders had to be cut, painted and set in concrete. Next came the ready mixed concrete and again there were problems with not only the weather with it being either too cold with frost, or too wet to work, and even the concrete delivery was cancelled on one occasion because the mixer had broken down!

Finally the Concrete was laid, levelled and smoothed down properly before being allowed to set for a few days after which more of the metal cross sectional girders were cut, painted with metallic paint and bolted onto the side walls to retain the sleepers securely.

Next the sleepers were carefully cut to length and slotted into the girder brackets so that they would be held firmly in place, but could be removed if needed. Old and well weathered railway sleepers were used to make the dividing walls rather than brick, or block because it was felt that construction would be easier with the abilities that we had in the team as well as probably being cheaper and more secure. Safety was a big issue throughout the whole construction as the parish council were quite involved in a lot of the decision making. Block constructions are frequently used for this type of thing elsewhere and are prone to damage from weather and the occasional knock from vehicles and machinery. The large concrete sections and railway sleepers should not suffer from these problems.

With regards to safety it was also deemed necessary to have a drainage channel at one side of the construction because the whole thing was built on a bit of a slope with the contour of the site. It was felt that the slope might make water a problem and at the same time the gravel edging would alleviate the need for an expansion joint for the large block of concrete.

The final bits of the construction work were just finished a couple of days before the second Lock Down came and then it was just a case of tidying up and filling our new, purpose built, storage area!

It has always been my adopted job to oversee the existing compost bins and from time to time I have had to remove bits of unsuitable material that I have spotted. Many people have always assumed that the heap in the bins is very loose and unsafe to walk on so they invariably tip all of their rubbish at the front of the bins. However, this is not true as it quickly packs down and I have often clambered on to the growing piles both to spread the waste evenly into the corners that would otherwise never get filled and to remove offending bits of netting, plastic and branches.
To be honest though, the problem has lessened over the years as people have been told that the soil, that is periodically available, is not a load of lovely, rich Top Soil that we have had delivered, but a pile of old weeds dug out from our compost bins!
It is hoped that this message will get through to people a bit more now and the Committee hope that having our own Compost in a smart, new, storage area will encourage better practice in using the two large existing compost bins and help to keep the car park tidier in general.


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