Allotment association fights back against attacks

Charles Ashby, who is leading Victory for Veg campaign, at the Steyning allotments
Charles Ashby, who is leading Victory for Veg campaign, at the Steyning allotments

ALLOTMENT holders in Steyning plagued by animal attacks, vandalism and theft are fighting back with the launch of a Victory for Veg campaign.

Once blessed with a long waiting list, the Steyning allotments now have vacant plots as one by one, growers have given up the fight to get their crops to maturity.

Steyning Allotment Association, which represents more than 70 per cent of allotment holders, has now launched a project to overcome the animal problem, reinvigorate the site and give people encouragement to maintain their plots.

Charles Ashby, who is leading the project, said: “Steyning allotments are situated in an enviable position at the foot of the South Downs and in the conservation area of the South Down’s National Park.

“They are surrounded by mainly open landscape and there are several conservation projects operating in the near vicinity, with the main one being the Steyning Downland Scheme.

“Many allotment holders participate in the conservation schemes, which has encouraged the regeneration of indigenous plants and flowers, and led to a proliferation of wild animals.

“Sadly, the kindness of the allotment holders is not reciprocated by the animals, with mainly badgers, deer and rabbits regularly raiding the allotment plots and stealing the produce. Also, recently there have been outbreaks of human vandalism and theft of crops.

“The larger animals have become such a problem that allotment holders are either considering giving up their plots or have already done so, as the fruits of their hard work disappear before harvest or are ruined by physical damage or soiled by animals using the area as a latrine.”

Mr Ashby, chairman of Steyning Horticultural Society, said it had become a major issue as more than 100 families benefited from the fresh produce, mental and physical health, and social bonding the allotments provided.

“A year ago there was a waiting list of 30 people for an allotment, today there are vacant plots,” he added.

“Allotment holders invest substantial quantities of their own money in seed, plants, manure and on humane organic methods to prevent bird and insect damage to their crops, such as netting to keep out pigeons and blackbirds.”

Victory for Veg, which aims to provide an animal barrier and fence, has been chosen by Tesco for its Bags of Help initiative. The scheme, administered by environmental charity Groundwork, will see three projects in the region awarded a grant from money raised through the 5p bag charge. Customers will decide which will receive the £12,000, £10,000 and £8,000 allocations.

Mr Ashby said: “The Steyning project has been placed into the Worthing region for voting. It is unfortunate that most Steyning people shop at the Shoreham Tesco store, which is supporting Brighton projects.

“However, Steyning Allotment Association is confident our friends and neighbours in the Worthing area will give us some good support once they have read about our scheme.

“We are also very pleased to have been selected by Tesco on its very first distribution of funds from the Bags of Help initiative.”

Voting will take place in store from Saturday, February 27, until Sunday, March 6.

Groundwork said it had received nearly 5,000 applications from community groups across the UK for the first round of Bags of Help.

The next opportunity to apply to the scheme is expected to be April. Visit www.groundwork.org.uk for more information.

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