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First birthday for Frome’s new allotments

Frome Allotment Association site reps, Gerry and Arthur Gasson.

Frome Allotment Association site reps, Gerry and Arthur Gasson.

Just one year ago, Frome Allotment Association took over the Muriel Jones Field at Birchill Lane. In that time, 98 plots have been established as families have risen to the challenge and excitement of growing their own food. 

But, the association says,  the site wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of many individuals. “We are lucky to have some excellent volunteers,” said Frome Allotment Association chairman, Neil Cameron. “Alistair and Anita Wood took on the mammoth task of allocating the plots and showing potential allotmenteers around the site on Saturday mornings. Gerry and Arthur Gasson, our site reps, have been there from day one marking out plots and making the barn windproof and water tight.”

A significant challenge is the lack of mains water supply and the cost of installing one is over £30,000. This caused problems last July when young seedlings and growing crops were threatened by some unusually hot, dry weather. Arthur Gasson installed two 1000 litre tanks at the side of the barn to harvest the rainwater from the roof.

“Making do and mending is an integral part of the allotment tradition,” said Neil. “We like to do things in a sustainable way.”

At the bottom of the field a water pump has been mounted in the River Frome, with Alistair Wood and Andy Wilson carrying out the work. Andy donned his waders to ensure that the pump was securely fixed in the river, so that water will be available to allotment holders during the driest spells.

Simon Woollen and his team at Frome Town Council were responsible for putting up some fences and gates and providing scalpings for the car park. “It’s been a real team effort,” said Neil. “We couldn’t have done it without the financial backing of Frome Development Community Interest company and the support of the town council. It’s been a case of everyone pulling together to develop a facility for the people of the town.”

In parts of the country allotment sites are being sold off for housing, but Frome has bucked that trend. The development of these new allotments attracted the attention of “Kitchen Garden” magazine and they are running a feature on the Muriel Jones site in their January issue.

The site can be seen by passengers travelling on the railway and was described by one of them as, “A little piece of paradise.” With its manageable plots, the picturesque setting and the feel-good factor from being in the fresh air, the Muriel Jones site is a popular place for growing. The waiting list has shot back up to 70.

“There’s still much to do,” said Neil,” but we’ve come a long way in such a small amount of time, and it’s great to see people out there enjoying themselves.”