Allotment Donation system

I’ve run this story before but it’s worth getting as much publicity for it as we can. If people decide not to get involved, they should do so for good reasons, not just because they didn’t know about the scheme. The BHAF in collaboration with the council have set up a way of donating to a ring-fenced fund for allotments. The idea is that people who are maybe a little better off voluntarily give money over and above their rent to the council to enable (perhaps) those who find it harder to pay their rent to manage. It’s a kind of self-administered means-testing, and it is simply a brilliant idea.

I’m still in two minds about it, though. It’s needed because the council has determined the allotments should be cost-neutral – that the take in rents equals the cost of providing the service. That’s a political decision, not a financial one; there’s no difference between that and a future council saying (for example) that the rents should be commercially competitive, and they should be able to make a profit from them as if they were renting to property developers. On the other hand, BHAF quote the true fact that councils do have a finite and shrinking budget, and that essential services are being cut. People are suffering, and those of us who have allotments and find it relatively easy to pay the rent are taking resources from schools, police, libraries, bin collections and roads. Allotments are excellent value, and if we can afford to pay, we should.

Another issue is the “ring-fencing”. This will of course be rigorously implemented, but may not mean what you think. It won’t mean, for example, that the allotment service will have more money from the donations, because as they increase, the funds diverted from other services – many of which, as I’ve said, are more essential – will also be cut, possibly after a short delay. That’s not a bad thing, but I wouldn’t say it’s a good thing.

The current committee at BHAF are excellent, dedicated, and honourable people, and if they recommend something like this, that says a lot. If you do want to donate, you should have received a how-to with your invoice in October (I’ll also include it in a post here soon). Probably the best way to pay – because less likely to be misallocated – is to go to the council website, click “pay online”, and select the payment type “Allotment Donation”. Then pay by card or PayPal. This form of payment (called webpay public) will allocate the donation automatically, and you can pay anonymously. Other ways of paying are available – details on the how-to.

Mayer Hillman: our grandchildren will hate us


“We’re doomed,” says Mayer Hillman with such a beaming smile that it takes a moment for the words to sink in. “The outcome is death, and it’s the end of most life on the planet because we’re so dependent on the burning of fossil fuels. There are no means of reversing the process which is melting the polar ice caps. And very few appear to be prepared to say so.”

See also Hillman’s website at

For another take, see the Dark Mountain project at

Walkers vs Planners, and winning

This is an rewarding story. Despite planners doing their very best to plan routes for people to walk through parks and open spaces, walkers invent their own off-piste routes. So perhaps the planners, instead of deciding where people should walk and then trying futilely to enforce that, should instead watch where people want to walk and put the paths there? Seems like it would save a lot of trouble for everyone…

Two images: in the first, the walkers have ignored the planners. In the second, the planners have watched where walkers walk before concreting the paths.

Voluntary extra fees and an irrelevant picture

Mark Carroll at BHAF writes in the latest newsletter:

In the last newsletter I talked about our idea to produce a mechanism by which plot holders who have more disposable income could voluntarily pay more in order to keep rental prices as low as possible for tenants who might struggle with a rent rise. We are still in talks with the Council, however the plan the Council suggested was, as far as the committee are concerned, too complicated a procedure for it to be successful.

We would like to see a very simple system, hopefully as simple as a check box on your bill and a space to enter in your voluntary payment. The Councils initial suggestion was a system by which people wishing to make a voluntary donation to the service have to phone the Council to make the payment. For smaller donations they suggested ‘cash donation boxes’ at sites. We feel that a voluntary payment system could work well if it was a seamless process in tandem with paying your regular bill.

We are worried that if it is introduced in a way that is not extremely simple that it would not work very well. We feel it would be best not to try it at all if it isn’t done simply, as this would give the impression, perhaps to other Councils that voluntary payments are not a viable way to increase funding. We have more talks planned and we will keep you informed.

Also in that newsletter in an invitation to the September forum if you have anything to say or you want to find out more about this or anything else.

You are invited to the September Allotment Forum Meeting. This meeting is open to all plot holders, site reps and co workers. It is a useful forum to chat about all allotment issues and also to strengthen the allotment community across the city.

Let us know if you have anything you would like discussed or included on the agenda. Please email us at

The Forum Meeting will be on

Wednesday 19th September 2018

at Patcham Community Centre

From 6.30pm for a 7pm start.

Here’s a picture that has nothing to do with the subject but shows how cool the Romans were.

Break-ins in September at allotment

Stacey writes:

There has been 5 break-ins between Thursday 6th September and Sunday morning 9th September.

I hope no more people were affected by this but let me know if you think you were and I can forward the police reference number for reporting it so they are linked.

This seems to be a surge – presumably the same perps. In any case, it’s very important calls are linked and that the police have as much evidence as possible. So please let Stacey or me know if you’ve been hit.



Feeding 9 billion humans

I offer this without comment.

Veganism has rocketed in the UK over the past couple of years – from an estimated half a million people in 2016 to more than 3.5 million – 5% of our population – today. Influential documentaries such as Cowspiracy and What the Health have thrown a spotlight on the intensive meat and dairy industry, exposing the impacts on animal and human health and the wider environment.

But calls for us all to switch entirely to plant-based foods ignore one of the most powerful tools we have to mitigate these ills: grazing and browsing animals.

Rather than being seduced by exhortations to eat more products made from industrially grown soya, maize and grains, we should be encouraging sustainable forms of meat and dairy production based on traditional rotational systems, permanent pasture and conservation grazing. We should, at the very least, question the ethics of driving up demand for crops that require high inputs of fertiliser, fungicides, pesticides and herbicides, while demonising sustainable forms of livestock farming that can restore soils and biodiversity, and sequester carbon.

In 2000, my husband and I turned our 1,400-hectare (3,500-acre) farm in West Sussex over to extensive grazing using free-roaming herds of old English longhorn cattle, Tamworth pigs, Exmoor ponies and red and fallow deer as part of a rewilding project. For 17 years we had struggled to make our conventional arable and dairy business profitable, but on heavy Low Weald clay, we could never compete with farms on lighter soils. The decision turned our fortunes around. Now eco-tourism, rental of post-agricultural buildings, and 75 tonnes a year of organic, pasture-fed meat contribute to a profitable business. And since the animals live outside all year round, with plenty to eat, they do not require supplementary feeding and rarely need to see the vet.

The animals live in natural herds and wander wherever they please. They wallow in streams and water-meadows. They rest where they like (they disdain the open barns left for them as shelter) and eat what they like. The cattle and deer graze on wildflowers and grasses but they also browse among shrubs and trees. The pigs rootle for rhizomes and even dive for swan mussels in ponds. The way they graze, puddle and trample stimulates vegetation in different ways, which in turn creates opportunities for other species, including small mammals and birds.

Our soils were almost dead. Now we have 19 types of worm, and 23 species of dung beetle in a single cowpat.

Much more at the link.