Friday, 03 July 2020

Allotments now busier than ever

ALLOTMENTS in Henley are proving a popular way for people to get exercise during the coronavirus lockdown.

The 220 plots at the Watermans allotments off Reading Road and the Greencroft allotments off Matson Drive are all being regularly tended.

The sites, which are managed by the Henley Allotments Association on behalf of the town council, are allowed to remain open as gardening counts as a form of exercise so is a valid reason for people to leave home.

Plot holders must observe social distancing regulations by staying 2m apart at all times and there is a temporary ban on bonfires to protect neighbours who may be housebound or self-isolating due to covid-19 or an underlying respiratory condition.

Association secretary Sharon Oldham, who rents a plot at Watermans, said: “We kept them open in the early days of the outbreak because all the guidance was so vague and people were unsure how to proceed.

“We checked the situation with the town clerk and he was happy for us to go ahead as long as we followed all the necessary precautions.

“They’re now extremely well used because people have a lot of time on their hands. They were all occupied before this kicked off as allotments are getting more popular, with a fairly large waiting list, but they’ve never looked better than they do at the moment. It’s easy to observe social distancing, though we prefer to think of it as ‘neighbourly distancing’ as the plots are clearly defined.

“The numbers can vary at a given time but it’s never crowded because people visit at different points throughout the week. When I last visited mine at about 5pm on a weekday there were about six of us.

“It’s always a convivial place to be but it’s especially nice at the moment — people will always stop to chat and ask how you are. People are also looking after each other’s plots if they become ill or can’t get to the site for whatever reason. It’s a good way of keeping the community together.”

Mandy Taylor, site manager at Greencroft, said: “The atmosphere is marvellous and people are so thrilled that we’re allowed to keep going. It’s great to be able to chat with others, as long as you stay on your own plot.”

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