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Ready, set, grow – Starter plots for new gardeners created as part of community volunteering project

Local residents are celebrating the success of a community volunteering project at Ashbourne Road Allotments, which has seen the creation of six starter plots for new allotmenteers.

Volunteers from Derby-based contractor G F Tomlinson, Ashbourne Road District Allotment Association (ARDAA) and BBC Radio Derby’s ‘Potty Plotters’ have been working since mid-December to transform a disused, large overgrown area of the site into the new smaller plots. 

They worked with Year 13 students from Horizons 6th Form (part of St Martins School) who were introduced to the project through the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Support for Schools team. Working on this project provided the students with the opportunity to learn new skills and gain real-life work experience as they worked towards a level 1 Prince’s Trust qualification.

A team of 18 volunteers from G F Tomlinson donated their time and energy, working with ARDAA and Horizons 6th Form to deliver groundworks, create pathways, erect fencing and build and paint sheds and benches. Support was also provided by the contractor’s sister company Total Hire & Sales and local supply chain partners CSJ and Browns Builders Merchants, which all donated materials and equipment for the project.

At approximately 7m x 5m, each plot provides a dedicated planting area plus a sentry shed complete with essential tools. A communal area has also been created as part of the project which includes fruit bushes, resting space and a shared composter. 

In keeping with G F Tomlinson’s green ethos of re-use and recycle, the company up-cycled old paving slabs and fencing for the allotments from a project being delivered via Scape’s Regional Construction framework at the nearby Brackensdale Primary School.

Ashbourne Road Allotments covers more than 150 plots across nine acres and the new, smaller starter plots are designed to be easier to manage and maintain for beginners. New plot holders will use these for a year before moving onto a larger plot, giving them an opportunity to learn and gain confidence and skills before taking on their own allotments, and understanding the time and energy that needs to be dedicated to this pastime.

In preparation for taking on their starter plots, new plot holders have been attending ‘The Growing Academy’ – ARDAA’s recently completed onsite learning hub, which was created using materials donated by G F Tomlinson, where learners get to grips with the basics of planting and growing.

With the plots now complete, ARDAA will continue educating allotmenteers and local residents at the Growing Academy about the benefits of allotmenting and growing their own produce from seeds.

Kevin Dodds, associate construction director at G F Tomlinson, said:

“We are delighted our partnership with ARDAA continues to flourish. This project hashas brought together Derby residents, local schools and their students and several local businesses in a great spirit of community integration to create the new community starter plots and make allotmenteering more accessible to all.

“It was a joy to work on from start to finish and it is wonderful to see the plots completed and in use. Thanks to the skill, hard work and dedication of every volunteer, plot holder, student and our own staff, we have created a legacy which will benefit the local community for years to come.  

“We hope the new gardeners enjoy their starter plots and we look forward to seeing the allotments develop even further in the future.”

Elaine Crick and Julia Slater, also known as the ‘Potty Plotters’, are the active allotmenteers from ARDAA and the driving force behind the starter plots who share their knowledge of ’pottering on plots’ on the BBC Radio Derby Andy Twigge show on Wednesday afternoons.

They said:

“We’re thrilled with the new starter plots. We know how daunting it can be to take on a plot for the first time and these new spaces provide the perfect introduction to allotmenting for some of our fellow community members.

“It’s been fantastic to work alongside G F Tomlinson, the students from Horizons 6th Form and our super dedicated team of site volunteers from ARDAA to create the plots and to see everyone come together over the winter months. We’re excited to watch the new plot holders get started and hope they find their life on site is as wonderful as we do.”

Joe Johnson, teacher and school careers leader at Horizons 6th Form, said:

“This was a great opportunity for our students to get out in the community and make a difference. They really looked forward to going to the allotments every week, even throughout the coldest months of the year, and it was a real boost for their wellbeing. There was a wonderful team feeling at the allotments and the community members were always really welcoming to our students. We’re so grateful to the G F Tomlinson team and ARDAA volunteers who passed on their knowledge and such a diverse range of skills, and to DWP for helping to organise the project.”


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