Toppesfield and Gainsford End Allotments
Owned by the parish council and managed by Toppesfield and Gainsford End Allotment Association, the land had been used as allotments since 1948. Unfortunately only a small section of it was maintained (one allotment owner) – the rest was left derelict and covered in brambles, self-seeded trees and many weeds. It was being used as a tipping area for garden waste and various other items. In 2010 it was decided to bring the area back into use and a team of volunteers from the community cleared space for 13 plots. Whilst removing various bits of rubbish, old metal frames and dumped carpets, the team discovered greengages, plums and elder trees, which would make the beginnings of a community orchard!
With a growing waiting list, and the potential to clear even more of the site, the group approached the Edible Essex Project for support. Impressed with their efforts and commitment, the Edible Essex Project Manager agreed to fund the installation of a water supply, benefiting both existing and new plot holders, and also 22 fruit trees for their community orchard. The orchard will become known as the ‘Jubilee Orchard‘, to coincide with the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations, and will also be included in the Village plan, for future local food sustainability .
Toppesfield’s good work has continued and a further seven allotment plots have been created. As well as planning the planting of their community orchard trees, the group has recently been awarded free hedging from the Woodland Trust – a total of 105 mixed hedge row saplings, which will also be planted in March. These are to be used to screen the allotments from the houses that back onto them, offering habitat for birds and other wildlife.
The group’s future plans include extending the woodland glade area, making a bug hotel for the local playgroup and school, and organising a range of fundraising activities involving the whole community. The increase in home-grown produce will help to lower carbon emissions and promote healthy living for parishioners of Toppesfield and Gainsford End.