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Stafford and Rural Homes | Successful project continues to grow with launch of new allotment
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Successful project continues to grow with launch of new allotment

Residents in a Staffordshire village have restored an abandoned allotment plot to its former glory with the help of the area’s leading provider of affordable homes.

The land off Brookhouse Drive in Barlaston had become overgrown and neglected until it was adopted by Stafford and Rural Homes (SARH) as part of its award-winning Growing Health project.

The project, developed in partnership with Stafford Borough Council with support from Stafford and Surrounds Commissioning Hub, has already seen the transformation of similar plots of disused land in Stafford and surrounding areas. It has helped to tackle issues such as fly tipping and anti-social behaviour whilst encouraging local residents to improve their health and wellbeing by getting out into the fresh air to grow their own fruit and veg.

The project is also helping to build stronger communities as neighbours band together to tend the plots.

During an open day at the Barlaston allotment, which marked the arrival of spring and the start of the first full growing season on the site, Laura MacPhee, Community Involvement Officer at SARH, explained: “It’s wonderful to see the expansion of the Growing Health project, which has already helped dozens of people improve their lives.

“It now offers the opportunity for villagers in Barlaston to join a growing band of allotment holders that are benefitting from the chance to grow their own healthy food and enjoy some exercise whilst getting to know their neighbours and other members of the community.

“Over the winter they’ve all been working hard to ensure the allotments are ready for the start of the growing season and now we’re all looking forward to a bumper crop.”

One Barlaston resident to benefit from the scheme is SARH customer Tim Green, who says the project has given him the opportunity to put his horticultural skills to good use.

The 44-year-old is registered disabled and lives in a SARH apartment. For the past 18 years he has been involved with the Oak Tree Farm rural project, which provides training and supported employment for adults with learning difficulties.

“I don’t have the space at home to grow many plants so having access to the allotment has been brilliant,” he said. “I’ve also been able to offer a few others some tips on growing their crops, while I am concentrating on growing plants which will attract important wildlife, including butterflies.”

“Since starting work on the allotment I can see how it has brought different people together from across the village.”

Another plot holder and local resident, Emma Mather, added: “I’ve always wanted an allotment, so this is just fantastic. We’ve been growing peas, carrots and potatoes and my two young children enjoy getting involved. In fact it is helping them to eat more vegetables as they say the ones they have helped to grow on the allotment taste much nicer!”

Growing Health also includes similar allotment projects in Stone, Blythe Bridge and Meadow Road, Stafford, which have won awards from the Borough Council and TPAS, an organisation representing housing association customers.

Officially opening the new allotments, Karen Armitage, SARH Chief Executive, commented: “I’m delighted to see the project continuing to grow, along with the beautiful fruit, vegetables and flowers so carefully nurtured by all those involved.

“The allotments also show what can be achieved when friends and neighbours, families and community groups, all work together to transform an unloved plot of land into a valuable community facility. Well done to everyone involved for all the hard work that’s gone into building such a lovely space for people to enjoy.

“Improving environments such as these helps to create an atmosphere of community and pride which helps local residents to take control of their own neighbourhood whilst at the same time helping to improve their health.”

Anyone interested in tending an allotment can register their interest by completing an expression of interest form on the SARH website. There may be a waiting list and plots are allocated on a first come first served basis with priority given to SARH customers and those living close to each site.

Pictured: Karen Armitage, SARH Chief Executive at the open day event with plot holders Paul Cashmore-Thorley, Emma Mather and her two children Noah and Frida, and Martin Lee.

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