Kettering Allotments Society
Secretary's Annual Report 2017, to be presented at the 2018 AGM
This report covers January to December 2017
This year saw the centenary of our Society's formation. It is hard to imagine what it must have been like in 1917, with the First World War still raging, Kettering's boot and shoe factories thriving (making boots for soldiers), women couldn't vote and Charles Wicksteed setting up a trust. Allotments were very important then, with wartime restrictions. Luckily we don't have those problems and it is good to be able to report that allotments are still thriving in Kettering.
As in previous years, our four fields are generally fully let, with a reasonable level of “turnover”. We occasionally had short waiting lists but usually have a small number of recently-vacated plots. Clearing vacant plots of rubbish and waste (such as carpet) before re-letting them takes time. We are grateful for all the hard work done by our stewards in this respect as well as all the other unseen duties they perform. The system of putting 100gsm weed control fabric on vacant plots has been very successful at Scott Road. New members are not overwhelmed with weeds and are less likely to give up; if they do give up the subsequent new member has a much more manageable plot too.
Our rents remain low (e.g. we are cheaper than Desborough). The treasurer will report separately on our finances.
Security on our fields continues to improve. The Heras panels we bought to reinforce the fence at Margaret Road were secured thanks to the hard work of our members. These panels together with thorns and brambles do eventually provide a very good barrier at our boundaries, as has been shown at Scott Road in previous years. The committee is very grateful to the volunteers who erected these panels. Northfield Avenue security needs further improvement. We obtained some quotes and applied for grants from KBC, hoping for matched funding. Unfortunately our grant application was not successful, but improved fencing and gates at Northfield Avenue remains a priority. We are considering what is feasible using our own funds.
A major achievement of the year at Scott Road was clearing the substantial waste, including structures and concrete bases, from the former chicken compound. These 3 large plots (60 pole) were finally vacated in January 2017 after a fox had killed the chickens in 2016. Our new rules ensure that such structures will never again be erected in the future, but we were left with a major task to clear and remove this rubbish. Anything useful was re-used by members; scrap metal was recycled but we had to hire skips and pay a company with a mini-digger to remove the concrete bases. By the summer we had cleared the site and re-let the plots. Many thanks to Pat Mullins and the other members who helped fill skips and remove rubbish.
Separately, a small amount of asbestos was identified and removed from Scott Road by an approved contractor.
It is reassuring that our new (2016) rules will prevent such problems occurring in the future. There is still the legacy of old carpet on many plots, but this is gradually being removed as it is no longer allowed. No new carpet is permitted and if any appears, field stewards ask the members to take it back. Likewise, there are a few old car tyres remaining and these are being taken to authorised disposal/recycling facilities. I want to encourage all members and field stewards to remain vigilant in this respect as there is a lot of fly-tipping in our county generally and some people think they can use an allotment as a dumping ground.
On a more positive note, we have continued to receive useful mulch, tree shreddings etc from local tree surgeons free of charge. Manure deliveries are still available and we have been informed of new sources that are listed on our website. We were able to obtain a few more thousand-litre IBC tanks for rain water at Scott Road. We sold these to members at cost and are looking for more. This will further reduce our water bills and keep rents low.
Our online monthly newsletter has continued to be successful, with approximately 200 -300 “views” most months. The peak in 2017 was 355 views from 187 separate visitors in January. Not bad for a society with about 350 members in total, some of whom do not have access to the internet. Comments, suggestions and feedback on our newsletter are always welcome. Our website and newsletters are available 24/7 so members of our society and the public can always access information about allotments in Kettering. In addition we were able to get some outreach in person. Our secretary was invited to speak to Year 5 at Millbrook School, the Mormon Church self-reliance day and the Pensioner's Parliament in Kettering. We also were represented at the Green Patch awards event and its Food Festival.
The winners of our Bridgstock Cup in 2017 were Jackie and Brian Nix of Margaret Road, many congratulations. This couple have won the prize before, so have set a really high standard in allotment gardening. The runner-up who came in a very close second place is Pat Mullins. The final decision was so close that the judges had to re-visit both plots to make their final decision. Further congratulations also go to Greta & Philip Liley for the Best Newcomer – a fabulous start to allotment gardening and likewise Highly Commended to Mandy McQueenie also a new allotment member in 2017.
We try to be good neighbours but occasionally received complaints of noise from opening the gates at Scott Road and Margaret Road. Advice was offered to our members to reduce any gate noise and we responded to those at KBC who had passed on the complaints with a calm approach to maintain our cordial relations with the wider community.
A new pest has arrived and is attacking onions,leeks and garlic. Several members noticed their onions leaves were twisted and curled. This is probably the allium leaf miner. This pest first arrived in the UK in 2002. Please remove any infected plants and dispose of in your grey wheelie bin. Any infected onions will not store. Leeks have been damaged but many are still useable.
Finally, a big thank you to all the committee members, field stewards and other Society members who have contributed time, money or labour to help the smooth running and improvement of our fields. I have no idea what Kettering's Allotments were like 100 years ago, but I can say that our fields have really improved over the last 25 years that I have had a plot thanks to you, the Society. Let us look forward to the next 100 years with confidence and optimism.
Russell Attwood, March 2017