Allotments were first introduced in Britain at the time of the late eighteenth-century enclosures. During World War I the land given over to allotments expanded enormously as communities across the country dug for victory to combat the imported food shortages as the U-boat blockade bit in 1917. Growing fruit and vegetables in allotments and open areas saw another resurgence during World War II. Following the world wars, many allotments have continued to exist; however their use has ebbed and flowed over the years. Recently interest in allotments has soared with year-long waiting lists for a plot becoming a regular occurrence.
Over the last year or two, following the onset of the recession, many building projects across Britain have been mothballed or cancelled altogether. Rather than allow these sites to go to waste, a growing trend for urban agriculture has emerged, giving these otherwise unused areas renewed importance.
The Square Mile in London is a newly proposed area for allotments to make use of land awaiting development. This initiative follows dozens of other grassroots projects to grow food in cities where allotment space is at a premium and there is growing demand for local food.
In October this year, Times Online reported CABE has said that Britain has nearly 74,100 acres of vacant or derelict brownfield land and other unused spaces which could be transformed for public use.
In February this year it was announced that the National Trust would create 140 new allotments in Cornwall and Devon to help communities grow their own food. By 2012, The National Trust hopes to make available enough land to create another 1,000 allotments across the UK. Other initiatives include the creation of allotments in London’s St James’ Park.
Shire Publications just recently published a book on allotments, past and present, written by Twigs Way. To learn more, please visit their website.