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Gilbert Clark, allotment owner
"What could be better than to sit and contemplate the wonders of nature..."
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Tuesday, 5 September, 2000, 17:38 GMT 18:38 UK
Pride in their plots of land
The good life - in the city
One of the leaders of the failed campaign to save Edinburgh's Hawkhill allotments has been telling News Online that plots are vital to civilised city living.

Gilbert Clark, secretary of the Federation of Allotments in Edinburgh, has fed his family from his plot for more than 20 years.

He said: "I heard over the radio that the Appletosh red apple needed 15 or 20 sprays to make it that red colour, and I thought, I'm not going to have my children fed things that have got so many sprays on them."

Mr Clark's own allotment, on an idyllic site in the shadow of the city's Blackford Hill, is typical of the 1200 allotments on 26 sites in Edinburgh.

But the number is falling, down by half since 1960, despite a waiting list of 1200.

Deep rooted appeal

When the allotment movement began a century ago it was intended to raise living standards by allowing the urban poor a little land to grow their own food.

There are few still who grow simply for food ..some of the single mothers ..but most come simply for the pleasure

Gilbert Clark
And the movement was given a boost by wartime shortages, such as during the submarine campaign in 1918 when many food ships were sunk.

But times have changed, according to Mr Clark.

He said: "There are few still who grow simply for food ..some of the single mothers ..but most come simply for the pleasure.

"Now I'm retired I grow far too much for my own use and give it away. I sell quite a bit of my surplus crop to help Christian Aid."

Allotments are under threat from developers and in particular housing developments.

Mr Clark said: "When you are being offered 30,000 per plot it is very difficult to save them from mammon."

Commercial threat

And in our commercial world some might see allotments as distorting the market economy.

Rents can be as low as 5 a year for concession holders like pensioners.

But Mr Clark said that is the way it ought to be: "Some people, like single mothers need help and shouldn't be changed.

"It is a little bit expensive to run the allotment itself. Not many get away with less than 50 a year.
Gilbert Clark
Gilbert Clark - hard work, but worth it

"The main cost though is time - four hours in the right kind of weather clearing your land for winter is worth 40 hours in the spring when weeds are tumbling and everything is growing quickly."

But for Mr Clark it is all worthwhile. "It's a tremendous pleasure, particularly when one is working hard to come up here in the evening and sit in such beautiful surroundings and watch the rest of the world, a complex world, working.

"Look at these bees, there must be 50 bees and wasps working away there.

"What could be better than to sit and contemplate the wonders of the natural world - even more wonderful than Edinburgh itself."

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See also:

05 Sep 00 | Scotland
Allotments to be bulldozed
17 Aug 00 | Scotland
Digging in to save allotments
24 Jun 98 | UK Politics
Allotments under threat say MPs
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