Nothing is more important than your health.

Having a productive allotment plot will help toward . . 

A Healthy Diet

You only get dietary fibre from foods that grow from the ground. The peas, beans, vegetables and fruit that can be grown on an allotment will form an essential part of a healthy diet. Many fruits and vegetables are also very good sources of vitamins. Food starts to deteriorate as soon as it’s harvested, so obviously food that gets from the ground to your plate in a truly fresh state is of added benefit.

Exercise

Visiting and working on the allotment will provide valuable forms of exercise that is not too strenuous and has the added value of being out in the fresh air. The following benefits to your health can be achieved with regular allotment gardening:

  • Heart pumps more efficiently, circulation improves
  • Fitness muscle tone and stamina improves
  • Digestion and sleep may improve through increased relaxation
  • Weight control is easier
  • Emotional Health improves, you feel better, happier and more contented

Dutch researchers have found that allotment keepers in their 60s tend to be significantly healthier than their more sedentary neighbours.

While plenty of anecdotal evidence exists to suggest growing one’s own fruit and vegetables protects against ill-health, no one had carried out such a direct comparison before.

Agnes van den Berg, from Wageningen University and Research Centre, the Netherlands, said:
Taken together, our findings provide the first direct empirical evidence for health benefits of allotment gardens. Having an allotment garden may promote an active life-style and contribute to healthy ageing.

She and her fellow researchers polled 121 gardeners in the Netherlands, plus 63 neighbours who did not keep allotments as the control group.Allotment gardening can be good for your well-being, a new study revealed.

Experts from the United Kingdom found that allotment gardening actually helps increase a person’s self-esteem, ease depression, and calm anger. In a collaborative effort, researchers from Essex and Westminster universities interviewed 269 people, in which half of them were gardeners. The respondents who were familiar with gardening were asked about how they feel before and after working in an allotment.The study, published in Oxford’s the Journal of Public Health, found that respondents who spent as little as 30 minutes a week on an allotment plot experienced significant boost in their mental well-being.

Compared to those who didn’t practice allotment gardening, allotment gardeners were found to have fewer problems regarding weight as their body mass index (BMI) were significantly lower. These gardeners also had lower levels of tension, depression, fatigue and anger, researchers noted.


The Origins of Allotments

In Wales (Cymru) the origin of allotments (rhandiroedd ) goes back to Romano-Celtic and possibly pre Roman times. When a person who did not possess land would ask a landowner for a small amount of land to grow food and would usually be given a talar – the strip of land at the edge of a field that was not cultivated. In return the landowner would expect the cultivators of this land to help bring in his harvest and vegetable crops – like potatoes – when the time arrived (although at that very early time the potatoes were still in south America!). This tradition is still exercised in some hill farm areas to this day. It was a widespread custom up until the end of the 1950s. A variation was the tradition of helping with the potato planting in return for a row of potatoes for the worker who would lift his/ her row when the crop was harvested.

It’s possible to trace the origins of allotments in England back over 200 hundred years – they derive from the enclosure legislation of the 18th and 19th centuries – and the word ‘allotment’ originates from land being ‘allotted’ to an individual under an enclosure award (Enclosures were used by richer land-owners to stop the poor grazing their animals on common land).

The most important of the Enclosure Acts was the General Enclosure Act 1845 which required that provision should be made for the landless poor in the form of ‘field gardens’ limited to a quarter of an acre. At this time, allotments were largely confined to rural areas.

The modern notion of an allotment came into being during the Nineteenth Century. A lot of people from the country went to work and live in towns; there was a lot of poverty.

The First World War prompted a huge growth in the number of allotments – from 600,000 to 1,500,000. After the War, many of the temporary allotment sites were returned to their original use.

World War 2 again increased the role for allotments as a major provider of food; there was a blockade from the U-boats, and many farm-workers went to the war. Allotments became a common feature in towns and cities, Dig for Victory posters were everywhere, and food production from allotments rose to 1,300,000 tonnes per year from around 1,400,000 plots – that’s nearly a tonne per plot!

Today, allotments are (thankfully) again enjoying a resurgence; partly because people are becoming more aware of the benefits to their health and the environment and sadly because we are fast approaching a critical period in our economic system the World over and more especially in the aftermath of the hyped up Covid-19 virus outbreak. Often the problem however, is where to find land to cultivate.

Isn’t it strange how a crises drives people back to a simpler and healthier connection with the soil?


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