In October 2010, people in Cove Bay, Aberdeen, got together a steering committee and went on to form The Nether Loirston Growers Association. They have a management committee of 12 people, who all actively contribute and have created food growing opportunities for local people through the establishment of 31 individual plots and 5 raised beds for use by local community groups and schools. Intrinsic to a healthy environment is healthy wildlife and the old dry-stane dyke at the edge of the plot is the designated wildlife area. Birds and bats are encouraged to make it their home through the addition of bird and bat boxes in the mature trees.
One of the allotmenteers is keen to provide gardening workshops and training with the wider members of the community and the Nether Loirston Growers are in the process of putting up a poly tunnel which will be shared amongst the allotmenteers and also provide shelter for workshops.
The community allotments have brought people together, ‘The community spirit is fantastic and the community allotment project has led to social events off site!’ says Michele McPartlin, Secretary, whose grounded passion and ‘can do’ attitude creates opportunities. ‘People within the local community, who do not have an allotment but who pass by the site, such as dog walkers and local joggers, keep a keen eye on developments and comment positively on the work being done by the allotmenteers.’ The Nether Loirston Growers also have a newsletter and a website to keep people in touch and raise awareness in the community.
The Nether Loirston Growers started because grant money, ( £37,750), secured from the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund, (which supports projects that can demonstrate that a reduction in carbon miles will be the result), provided an opportunity for a piece of underused land to be cleared up, checked for contamination and growing spaces created. The money was spent on a rainwater harvesting system (storage tanks sponsored), fencing and gates, pathworks and hardstanding, storage container, groundworks (ploughing and levelling £7800), planning fees, fees of Aberdeen Forward, a local recycling charity, who managed the establishment of the site and groundworks, insurance and Aberdeen City Council Legal fees (capped at £500). The monies within the funding were moved around a little with CCF’s agreement to accommodate conditions that presented themselves.
The result? A 0.28 hectares site, that was previously used for council soil storage has been transformed into an attractive and productive growing area! There are 31 individual plots and three community growing areas as well as a wildlife area and a living hedge. The community areas are for local schools and community groups to help toward educating them in food growing at a practical level.
Growing your own food certainly reduces the need for food to be transported and if grown to organic principles, a reduction in carbon is the result as no pesticides or fertilizers are used. People know where their food has come from and also that it is healthy. What more could you wish for?
Local companies have responded positively to the Nether Loirston Growers, including pro bono services from a local solicitor, local companies providing materials as well as soil improver and manure and local councillors with financial contributions. 20 tons of compost from the council brown bin compost scheme was provided free of charge by Keenan’s, with transport provided by EIS waste. These have all helped the community group on its way to achieving a more sustainable lifestyle for those involved in the project.
This project, having just completed it’s first season of growing, is sustainable at many levels and will be as long as there are people who want to grow food and who want a plot. The group is financially OK as people who have a plot pay £35 for a standard plot and £5 for membership of the Association and some money is collected through taking part in local events. However, the group is also actively involved in fundraising for the project and an example if this is the successful application to the Aberdeen City Health Improvement Fund which provided grant funding towards the poly tunnel and for the building of the raised beds which will make gardening accessible to less able bodied people