Yesterday Jamie Milton, the allotment rep at Stapleton Allotments, (the plot I have left), tweeted me with some really shocking photos of the site. Now it has to be said that historically some of the land on site on the opposite site to Jamie's plot has always had a bit of a flooding issue, with my plot being one that regularly struggled a bit when we have had a lot of rain, but none of us on site, and remember some have been there since 1967, have ever seen anything like this on this side of the land. Huge puddles of water just sitting there in that stubborn way that flood water does. Crops looking as if they were rotting in the ground surrounded by water.
So I asked for the photos to be emailed to me and looking at the picture below it suddenly occured to me that what we see in front of us is inevitably I should think, a part of the problem.
My understanding of road building and engineering is limited but having listened to others and read lots about how rewilding is necessary to help stop flooding in the north of the UK it seems to me that the ecological devastion of this hillside has to have something to do with these flooded allotments.
|Sims Hill previously. Photo by Harry Phillips|
|Sims Hill after the work. Photo by Harry Phillips|
The sight of the land is devastating, but these floods now pose their own questions. What might this flood water be contaminated with and how will the land be repaired if there are contaminants? And more vitally how will this be stopped from happening in future years as we see the UK, and particularly the south west, having ever warmer and wetter winters. Fortunately the allotments are on best and most versatile soil, and as such should withstand the floods and not lose fertility, but for how long can land withstand this sort of treatment? This is supposed to be progress, moving the city forward, but in reality it is a mess and there appears to have been little thought about how the work might alter or change the land surrounding the road. It seems to me this could have been predicted and safeguarded from happening with a little forethought and environmental care.
But I think this sight also poses another question. Whilst there is no doubt that there is a huge interest in allotments and growing food generally from people countrywide, over and again we see councils and large unelected organisations looking at taking allotment land and building on it. The fight to save Farm Terrace allotments in Watford is ongoing whilst the plot holders at Coombe continue in their fight to keep hold of allotments that are of true historical significance. Plots in Isleworth at Park Road are newly threatened and it appears weekly that there are new sites coming under threat. It's as if the significance of food growing is lost on those who have the power to change things.
Recently I had a very interesting and insightful conversation with someone of significance here in Bristol, who said it was hard to look at food as it fails to come under an umbrella group. I fear my face gave me away as I looked at this person and commented that surely food umbrellas everything, as it is the one thing that we all need 3 times a day. But my guess is that as we have given our food system away to large corporate organisations, the importance of locally grown, let along home grown food, is somewhat lost at these levels, so allotment land, even if it has historical significance or is best and most versatile, grade 1 soil, just becomes land that is ripe for development.
I fear for this land as I fear for the food system. Our food culture is slipping away along with the general populace having the skills to both grow and cook. The mere thought that this land might flood was never considered because those in power fail over and over to see the significance of food growing or the issues within the food system because they do not even consider that to be within their remit. The reality is that these people are happy to say food comes from one of the big 4 supermarkets because they can hand that responsibilty over to them in the hope that they will do the right thing.
|Jamie Milton's plot-one of the most beautiful in the city, devastated by flooding.|
So what can we do?
At moments like this it's important, I think, to understand the power of tiny steps along with the knowledge that we all have a voice that can be heard. Support your local allotment site, if not by taking on a plot, then by going to open days and talking to the plot holders. Be aware of your local food producers and the land on which they grow. Be aware of the significance of urban and peri-urban soils in the UK and their significantly high levels of fertility and be prepared to fight for that. Sign petitions, lobby councillors and politicians, demand that food is grown in your children's schools and that food is an important part of the curriculum. Cooment on plans for new development and ask where the food growing land is for that development. Talk to other people about why this is so significant for the future food security of our land.
A wise man (Ron Finley) once said "kids that grow kale, eat kale". Let's make sure our future generations still have healthy allotment land to grow that kale on..........
|Jamie Milton's plot last summer-just feet from the M32 but an ecological and food growing paradise.|