Field Allotments at Amerton
By Mrs FM
Herbs & Other
Issues And Going Green.
And Other Climbing Plants.
Alan J Hartley
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
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
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
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.