Planting hope and nurturing community spirit in York
For green fingered York residents, free access to allotment plots has provided a lifeline during the pandemic.
York St John University will be celebrating Green Week from 15 March, with a line-up of online events looking towards a sustainable future. As part of this celebration, YSJ staff and wider York residents have been pondering plant-power and the joy of allotments.
Located at Northfield, Haxby Road, York St John University has a number of allotment gardens. During lockdown, the University waived fees and the local community was able to enjoy their plots without worrying about financial obligations.
For some, this outdoor space provided a real soil-salvation.
Allotment newcomer Caera found the outdoor plot helped her family find a safe and fun place to spend quality time. She said: “Getting our plot just before lockdown started has been an absolute lifesaver! It has provided endless hours of outdoor activity and entertainment for the kids, somewhere to run around to their hearts content, discover wildlife, learn about growing their own food, and just general get mucky and have fun!”
And, whilst social distancing has been a priority, the value of a community is still felt at the allotments. Allotment user Janet said: “It was also lovely to see other people and to wave from afar, have a few chats at a suitable distance, and swop plants at the recycling point.”
Growing enthusiast Dr Liesl King, Associate Head of School: Creative Writing, Media & Film Studies at York St John University, also felt the allotments brought some much-needed interactions: “There's a wonderful community down there, and having a chat outside in all kinds of weather has been especially good during lockdown.”
Widely acknowledged amongst the green-growers was the impact on mental health. The allotments have acted as an escape and the chance to switch off from the news. The many health benefits of time spent outside have really been felt, as has the opportunity to grow healthy food to eat.
For Liesl, highlights included orange pumpkins, sweet peas, and a huge basket full of strawberries. Sharing surplus produce amongst friends, family and neighbours has also brought a sense of purpose and much needed connectivity.