So, you want an allotment…

Having an allotment is an enormous pleasure, can provide you with an outdoor space to grow and provide you with ‘free’ exercise, but there are things to take into consideration before you take the plunge.

Time

You could look at the allotments around you and dream of having seasonally produced fresh fruit and vegetables, perhaps grown without any chemicals and think that it must be easy to achieve; after all, it’s just putting things in the ground and waiting for them to grow, isn’t it?

Well, no. For first-time allotmenteers you would be offered either a quarter or half plot, but even these, with their smaller ground size, take an amount of time to maintain.

To keep an allotment productive and with a minimum of weeds you need to be prepared to spend a minimum of an hour a week just staying on top of the maintenance of the ground. This is weeding and making sure your crops aren’t being eaten by the local wildlife. The longer you spend, the better your plot will look, and the better your crops will be. The bigger your plot is, the more time you will need to spend to stay on top of weeding.

Then you have to consider the time it takes to grow the food itself. From sowing, a carrot can take anywhere up to 3 months before it is big enough for eating, and before then you’ll need to make sure you protected the young carrots from being eaten by something else in the meantime! A link to a chart of how long (generally) it takes from sowing to cropping will be added to this page in due course.

Cost

Renting an allotment from Newton Hall Allotment Association will cost you (2022 & 2023 prices)

  • £44 a year for a full plot
  • £33 a year for a 3/4 plot
  • £22 a year for a 1/2 plot
  • £11 a year for a 1/4 plot

Plus, on joining you will pay a £10 membership fee. This entitles you to purchase from the shop at a lower cost than you may find on the open market.

However, you will also need to factor in the cost of

  • Seeds (expect around £30-50 a year!)
  • Tools (although you could pick some up second hand, or might inherit some from the previous plot holder)
  • Protective materials including fleece, netting, canes
  • Appropriate clothing and footwear
  • A ploytunnel (subject to a approval by the committee)

Your rent covers the cost of the plot, membership of the National Allotments Association and entitles you to use the water supply, however please use this sparingly as it is on a metered connection which is paid for quarterly.

Committment

Having an allotment requires commitment. It often seems like a good idea to provide for yourself and your family, however the enthusiasm for this can sometimes wane, particularly if you like to take day trips with your family instead of coming to the allotment on nice (and not so nice) days.

But, what will you get in return?

In return for your time, commitment and money you will meet new people and make new friends, find new skills, perhaps even have an entire meal that you grew yourself.

Studies and anecdotal evidence have shown that being in contact with soil and growing plants can boost your mental and physical health; a boon in these times of difficulty.

For those of you with children, you may help them to learn about the world around them, including insect and wildlife as well as growing to feed themselves in later life, but we would discourage anyone from taking an allotment in order to teach children about growing food as they are rarely interested and often become bored. If you take an allotment, take it for yourself. If the kids are interested they will join in. If not, enjoy the freedom it gives you from them!

Next steps

Application

If you still would like to take on an allotment at Newton Hall Allotment Association, simply visit the Durham County Council’s website at https://doitonline.durham.gov.uk/service/Allotments and follow the instructions. If you are already registered with the council you only need to log in, however, if you are not registered you may need to do this first IN ADDITION to making the application for an allotment.

For those who do not have an account, simply ring 03000 260 000 and the Council’s Customer Services team will take some details from you and will forward your details to us and we will add you to the waiting list.

Once you have completed your application, an email is sent to us with any details you have provided (your name, address, email address and any phone numbers you have entered). Please note, if you do not provide an email address or telephone numbers we will not be able to contact you when an allotment becomes available. We will follow this up with an email to let you know where you are on the waiting list, we will ask you to provide an email or telephone number if one has not been entered onto the form and will invite you to visit the allotments for a look around. If you have not received an email after 5 days, please check your junk/spam folder and add any email address ending in @newtonhallallotments.co.uk to your safe sender list.

An allotment becomes available

When an allotment becomes available we will make two attempts to contact you to invite you to view the allotment. If we have been unable to contact you we will inform the council and your details will be removed from the mailing list. You would need to reapply through the council to be placed at the bottom of the list.

If you accept the allotment we will take the £10 joining fee plus one full year’s rent, and once these are received the council will issue the Tenancy agreement. Please make sure you check your emails because if this is not accepted on the Council’s system after a few days the offer of the plot is revoked.

One week later…

After a week we will invite you back to the allotments at a mutually convenient time to go over the rules, to familiarise you with the site and to agree with you the next steps in your plan for the plot, including timescales.

Plot inspections are done monthly during March-October (inclusive) and are carried out by two members of the committee. They will focus on the following:

  • Weed Control – are any weeds being kept under control so as not to spread to other allotments?
  • Paths – You are responsible for maintaining the paths around your allotment, including half of the path on every side. This includes shoring up sides to make sure it is not dangerous to yourself and anyone else using the path and cutting the grass.
  • Cultivation – at least 2/3 of the allotment must be in productive use for growing fruit, vegetables and/or flowers.
  • Hedges – Where an allotment is bordered by a hedge, the hedge must be kept tidy and not allowed to overgrow. Please be mindful of nesting birds during the nesting season (March – July).

Sheds, Polytunnels and other large structures

In order to maintain the aesthetic of the site, any member wishing to erect a polytunnel, shed or other structure must first put their request in writing to the Committee. An email is fine, so long as a reasonable scale drawing showing where the structure will be sited is attached. Emails can be sent to committee@newtonhallallotments.co.uk.

Trees

Similarly, members must request permission to plant trees. Tress must not be allowed to grow taller than 8 feet (2.5 meters) to avoid shading out neighbouring plots and must not be planted any closer than 5 feet (1.5m) from the plot boundary to avoid the branches growing out into paths.

A full set of rules will be made available shortly on this website, and for members joining after September 2020, a summary of rules will be shown in your new member booklet.

Gates

Regrettably, we need to have locked gates at the allotments so that only those people who have paid a membership fee can enter. This is in order to protect member’s produce and tools from theft and damage. The code to the gate is changed every year and only members that have paid their rent will be given the code.

It is important that everyone remembers to lock the gates behind them (in and out) and that the locks are never left open with the combination showing.