Today, the site is thriving, with a growing waiting list for allotments and a whole range of new facilities, including a Visitors’ Centre, display and museum plots and a heritage plant nursery. The allotments are now Grade 2* listed and a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation. They’re home to a range of 19th century summerhouses, sheds, glasshouses and buildings, as well as rare wildlife, including birds, moths, butterflies, damselflies and dragonflies.
Under the Heritage Lottery Fund plan it was agreed that around 10% of the site would be used to create conservation areas, providing a ‘green reservoir’ in the heart of urban St Ann’s. Around 60 allotment plots were designated to remain uncultivated and have been developed to provide an abundance of shelter, food and nesting opportunities for wildlife.
Over 59 types of bird have been spotted at the site, including species on red and amber lists of high conservation concern in the UK, as well as 104 species of moth, 18 butterfly species, 9 damselflies and dragonflies and 222 different plant species (excluding trees and shrubs).
The restored site is also home to a year-round programme of events and activities, for both allotment-holders and the local community, with educational, volunteering and training opportunities available.
So, has the restoration project been a success?
An evaluation report published by The Renewal Trust to mark the completion of the restoration project shows that the allotments now have a waiting list for the first time in a generation, with 97% of the plots being used – or maintained as wildlife or museum/display plots. Current waiting lists average around 100 people, with a waiting time of 12 months.
Back in 1994, 72% of plot holders rated site maintenance as poor or worse, now 90% are satisfied according to a 2017 Plot Holder Survey, with 68.5% of respondents rating it as good or excellent.
The newly-renovated allotments are also attracting more tenants who live locally in St Ann’s, showing that the restoration project has had a direct impact on the local community.
When asked what drew them to renting an allotment at the site, the majority of allotment-holders put their enjoyment of gardening top, followed by the chance to grow fresh produce and improved health and exercise.
Rob Wood, Chair of the STAA Management Committee sums things up perfectly:
“The success of the project so far is a tribute to the generations of gardeners who’ve worked their plots through good times and bad. An allotment is never finished – and after 200 years of gardening we’ve only just begun!”
Visit STAA’s website to keep up to date with all the latest allotment news.