10 Christmas Gift ideas towards a sustainable food system

Ideas to get away from Christmas consumer spending and towards health, conviviality and a sustainable food system

Do something wonderful!

Laugh out loud!

£10

…And at the same time support Louth Neighbour’s Kitchen, at a comedy night at The Priory Hotel in Louth.

Also live music nights to warm the cockles in the depths of winter!

Various events. Vouchers available.

Learn to cook

£25

For anyone who already loves to cook, this will be a well received gift!

For anyone who does the cooking day in and day out, a cooking class is a little time out from their own kitchen, a way to inject variety and joy into the every day.

For anyone who wants better health, cooking more from scratch is a no-brainer way to include more veg and less nonsense.

I suggest cooking class vouchers from Curry Jacks – the masters of curry and big supporters of local food – purchase from the van or email spiceyourlife@curryjacks.uk to get it posted.

Plan a garden

from £1.60

Apart form planting fruit trees, winter is the time for planning and dreaming…

Packets of seeds from the Seed Co-op

Gift Vouchers from the Seed Co-Op from £5

(Also see books, below.)

I enjoyed Huw Richard’s book Grow Food for Free – you can buy it for £12.69 on Hive and support your local bookshop.

Shares in Seed Sovereignty

from £100

You can now buy shares in the Seed Co-operative as a gift.

Seed sovereignty, and the maintenance of organic open-pollinated seeds capable of reproducing themselves, are crucial to a just and sustainable food future.

Read more about the Seed Co-op and the future of seed and then give this incredible gift to someone whose future you want to invest in!

Subscribe to a better world

Memberships & Subscriptions to last all year

A magazine from your grocer

Free online, or print edition with your veg box (starting £12:45)

Fantastic food journalism from Riverford Organic Farmers – I read the print version cover to cover every time it is delivered!

The magazine is free online – subscribe here to receive it by email, or a quarterly paper copy is free with an organic veg box. Veg boxes from £12.45

LOGO market stall

Grow organic

£8/year

Membership of Lincolnshire Organic Gardeners Organisation gets you entry to lots of excellent events, tours, talks, seeds swaps and contact with some very knowledgable growers. Such a great community!

Recipe box

from £33/fortnight

Increase your repertoire of delicious plant based meals effortlessly – recipe box delivered to your door (Lincoln area)

Read – Learn – Change

Some books that have influenced me this year.

Local Food Ecosystems

Pay as you feel

Duncan Catchpole describes in detail how a better food system might look – and how it is being put into practice in Cambridge.

Duncan’s ideas make complete sense to me, and I’m interested in how we might apply some of these ideas in Lincolnshire.

Edible Paradise

£14.40

Vera Greutnik sparks lots of ideas for beautiful, productive gardens using no-dig and permaculture principles.

Cook book

£26

What is a sustainable diet like?

Healthier, tastier and much more exciting and diverse!

Eat & Drink Lincolnshire

Support small scale local farms. They’re important.

Inkpot Farm

Pasture for Life

Pasture for Life means that animals are fed ONLY on pasture – without the need to use additional land to grow feed crops or clear environmentally sensitive land across the world for feed imports. Pasture grazing sequesters carbon and regenerates soils, increasing biodiversity, improving animal welfare, and producing healthier meat.

Organic veg

from £25

Try a local organic veg box.

Lincolnshire Wine

Yes – wine from vineyards right here in the glorious Lincolnshire wolds!

Plastic Free & Zero Waste

Food gets put into fancy packaging and sold as “gifts.”
Let’s subvert the commercialisation of Christmas giving by choosing and reusing containers in a thoughtful or imaginative way.
Forage & Fill, Lincoln

Lincolnshire has an increasing number of refill shops, including:

10 Christmas gift ideas towards a better food system in Lincolnshire

Happy Christmas, with love from all of us at Lincolnshire Food Partnership! xx

Holiday Clubs for Kids

Holiday Activities & Food (HAF)

The County Council ran a successful Holiday Activities and Food programme (HAF) over the summer, providing many local children and young people with enriching activities, free healthy meals and lots of fun. 

Clubs were held at schools, nurseries and kids clubs, leisure centres and sports grounds for all ages with the opportunity to participate in games, swimming, dance, music, arts and crafts, visits and much more.

Bookings Open for Christmas Holidays

The Christmas holiday programme is now open for bookings – please do spread the good news of how the clubs can help children and young people make new friends, socialise and have fun during the holidays.

Nourishing food is provided, and sporty, healthy food activities vary from one club to another, depending on location and provision available.

There are clubs across the whole of the county. You can find further details on the county council website.

Host a HAF

If your organisation or business would like to support future holidays programmes by providing activities, food or equipment, or if you would like to just find out more you can email: haf@lincolnshire.gov.uk

Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) Kids Club bookings open for the Christmas holidays across Lincolnshire

Details and updates of all HAF clubs are on the Lincolnshire County Council website:

lincolnshire.gov.uk/school-pupil-support/holiday-activities-food-programme

Madcaps Kids Club – Market Deeping Primary School

20 – 23 December 9 am–1 pm for children aged 5-11 years
Join us for some fantastic fun and games from Zoolab, dance, arts and crafts, cooking and much more. 

To book madcaps@btinternet.com 

Acorns Childcare Centre – Malcolm Sargent Primary

20 – 22 December 10am–3 pm for children aged 5-11 years
Games, sports, festive cooking, arts and crafts, dance and music and lots more exciting activities.  

To book enquiries@acornchildcarecentre.co.uk 

Smartie Pants Kids Club, Sutton Bridge 

Various dates available for 5-11 years
Football, arts and crafts from Christmas decorations and crackers, paper mache and clay, yoga, baking festive foods and lots of other fun activities.

To book sarahfenton@smartiepantsnursery.co.uk 

Smartie Pants Kids Club, Tetney

Various dates available for 5-11 years
Lots of activities including a trip to Donna Nook to see the seals, arts and crafts, forest schools, cooking and baking festive treats and much more! 

To book sarah.fenton@smartiepantsnursery.co.uk  

Smartie Pants Kids Club, Mablethorpe & Sutton-on-Sea

Various dates available for 5-11 years
Football, bowling, a trip to Donna Nook to see the seals, festive arts and crafts, baking and much more! Join us for lots of fun activities.

To book sarah.fenton@smartiepantsnursery.co.uk 

Little Acorns Day Nursery, Coningsby

Wednesday 22 and Thursday 23 December 9am-5pm for children aged 4-11 years
Join us for festive fun activities including Christmas crafts, forest schools, games as well as helping to prepare a Christmas lunch. 

To book amanda@thelittleacornsdaynursery.co.uk

Shining Stars Day Nursery, Wainfleet St. Magdalen

20 – 23 December 8am – 4pm for 5-11 years
Lots of festive fun with cooking activities, Christmas crafts, outdoor play, park trips. 

To book email: wainfleet@childrenslinks.org.uk

The Noise Academy at Akedo, Lincoln

23 and 24 December for 10-16 years
DJ Skills, gaming, music, fitness fun, learning about food and being healthy. 

To book email: info@noiseacademy.co.uk

Lincoln City Football Foundation

20 – 22 and 24 December
Lots of different activities including arts and crafts, visits, drama and sports. Lunch in the LNER Stadium

To book email HAF@lincolncityfoundation.co.uk or www.lincolncityfoundation.com and quote HAFFunding

Premier Education

Lincoln Bishop Grosseteste College, Gainsborough, Market Rasen Leisure, Branston, Thurlby
Various dates available
8.30am – 4.30pm, drop off between 8.30am and 9am and collect from 4pm – 4.30pm
A wide range of sports and activities, practical health and wellbeing, food education lessons, arts and crafts.

To book email premiereducationhaf@gmail.com

Visit www.premier-education.com and create an account

JB Sports Coaching

Horncastle, Wragby, Coningsby, Sutton-on-Sea
20 – 22 December – 5-11 years
Lots of exciting and festive activities, sports and games, arts and crafts, food tasting and much more!

To book email: info@jbsportcoaching.co.uk 


Synergy Sports Coaching, Lincoln College

20 and 21 December
Exciting fun activities and sports games plus archery, fencing, Boxercise, golf, Scooter-Wise & Mini-Squash, food activities.

To book email: LeeTurnbull@SynergySportsCoaching.co.uk or Free Holiday Camp Places – Synergy Education Group visit www.SynergySportsCoaching.co.uk

Inspire+ 

Grantham, Stamford and Long Sutton on 20 – 22 December (9.30 am – 3.30 pm)
Lots of exciting activities from sports and games, music, cooking and much more!

To book https://inspireplus.magicbooking.co.uk/Identity/Account/Login email info@inspireplus.org.uk

Geoff Moulder Leisure Complex, Boston

20 – 21 December – 5-14 years of age
Lots of activities including swimming, arts and crafts, ten pin bowling, pantomime, Christmas Clubbercise, and much more.

To book email: Leisure.centre@boston.gov.uk
Tel: 01205 363483

Boston United Football Stadium

Lots of full days of activities available from 18 December 2021 – 3 January 2022
Age appropriate activities for 5-16 years of age
Fun and games, bowling, magic shows, Play Towers, pantomime, gymnastics, sports and games, First Aid training, Match Day and much more.

To book email: admin@bostonunitedcf.co.uk


Gainsborough Trinity Foundation

Various days available from 20 – 23 December in Lincoln and Gainsborough – 5-11 years
Contact the club for arrival and finish times
Each club consists of an all-expenses paid full day trip to the Christmas Extravaganza at Rand Farm Park as well as fun games, activities, crafting opportunities, sports and so much more to keep you excited and engaged across each two-day club.

To book email: richard@gainsboroughtrinityfoundation.com

Skegness Embassy Theatre

20 and 21 December – 8.30am – 4.30pm for ages 7-11 years
Lots of fun activities including dance skills, drama, learning about food and staying healthy and the theatre performance of ‘Sleeping Beauty’.

To book email embassytheatre@mvtlc.org

Magna Vitae Leisure Centre, Louth

December 20 – 23 – 9am – 3.30pm for ages 4-14 years
Santa’s Design Lab with a variety of creative Christmas crafts, fun with food, soft dodgeball, energy burner, music production using interactive technology, DJing.

To find out what is on offer and to book email: james.clough@mvtlc.org

The Station Sports Centre, Mablethorpe

20 and 21, 29 and 30 December (10 am – 2pm) – for 5-11 years
A range of activities are available including badminton, table tennis, ten pin bowling, arts and crafts, pottery painting, football and much more.

To book email info@mvtlc.org

Fit For Sport Holiday Club, Grantham Meres Leisure Centre

20 and 21 December for ages 4-12 years
Six activity categories which are: Skills for Sports, Let’s Get Moving, Learning to Thrive, Learn Through Play, Express Yourself and Wellness Warriors.
This Christmas, our usual activities will also come with a festive twist which will promise a number of brilliant opportunities to bring the magic of the festive season to life such as winter themed sports, ‘Decorate the Tree Creations’, celebrations for our ‘Winter Party’ and much more!  All food, snacks and drinks are provided.

To book: https://www.fitforsport.co.uk/holiday-activity-camps/haf-funded-holiday-camps – enter FSMHAFGRANT21
Email: enquiries@fitforsport.co.uk or you can call our customer services team between 9am – 5pm Mon – Fri:

MACCA Sports Academies

20 – 23 December (10am – 2pm) – 5-16 years
Grantham Cricket Club and Easton on the Hill Cricket Club, Stamford
#GetActive – Multi Sports (including football, basketball, netball, tennis, hockey, rounders, ultimate frisbee, Kwik Cricket and much more), Boxercise, yoga, HIT session (High Intensity Training)
#BeCreative – Escape room, time capsule creation/a message to the future, arts and crafts, Junkeneering (a series of junk modelling challenges)
#BeHealthy – blind food tasting, grow your own, food quiz and lots of exciting activities.

To book email: macca.information@gmail.com

Sport2Day, Holbeach

20 and 21 December (8.30am – 4.30pm) – 5-11 years
Lots of fun and sporting activities and games, dodgeball, archery, hockey, football, basketball, forest skills, treasure hunts, capture the flag, learning about food and healthy living.

To book email: info@sport2day.co.uk

Acorn Childcare Centre

Malcolm Sargent Primary, Stamford
10am – 3pm – 5-11 years
Fun activities for all children from sports and games, dance, crafting, cooking, music and much more.

To book email: enquiries@acornchildcarecentre.co.uk

Yellow Brick Road Day Nursery & Kids Club, Metheringham & Bracebridge Heath

20-23 December for 5-11 years – flexible times for arrival and pick up
Choice of activities, games, arts and crafts and lots more to keep your child happy and occupied.

To book email: michelle.ybr@gmail.com

Free Christmas holiday clubs for eligible children at the following nursery and kids clubs

All activities, food, drink and snacks are provided free of charge. Contact the settings below for more information or email HAF@lincolnshire.gov.uk

  • Bright Sparks, Potterhanworth
  • Eslaforde Day Nurseries, Sleaford
  • Town and Country, Louth and Market Rasen
  • Hartsholme Kids Club, Lincoln
  • The Nest, Lincoln
  • Railway Children’s Kids Club, The Bythams

Beans, Beans, Good for your Heart

But are they really? And should we be eating lots more of them? The short answers to those questions are Yes and Yes, and can I entice you to read further with a promise of an uber easy super nutritional bean recipe at the end?

So how are beans good for our bodies and in particular the pump that keeps us moving through each and every day?

Well it turns out it’s the type of fibre in the beans that stops the human body absorbing ‘bad’ cholesterol. Insoluble fibre contained in the beans and pulses is essential for coronary protection.

So yes, a really simple way to help protect your circulatory system is just to eat more beans.

Crops to protect our soil & our planet

Not only are beans and legumes good for us, they’re good for our planet. Beans and legumes help to restore nitrogen to nutrient depleted soils as part of a crop rotation.

Increasing beans in our diets is a key part of transitioning to an environmentally sustainable and just farming system that can feed the population, according to recent IDDRi modelling of the UK.

It’s clear now that switching to a diet rich in beans, legumes, nuts and vegetables can dramatically reduce a person’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions.

Eating locally grown or just grown in the UK beans could be a further positive step in the battle against climate change.

Source: Data from Poore & Nemecek (2018) and ‘Environmental impacts of food production’ (2020)

The graph above demonstrates how little greenhouse gas is contributed to the atmosphere when producing beans as a protein source compared to average animal based sources.

Big retailers are now encouraging consumers to make swaps for plant based proteins. Sainsbury’s have recently released a campaign to swap half of the meat in traditional recipes for beans or pulses.

British beans

The British public already consumes a phenomenal amount of one particular bean.

Yep, you guessed it – the baked bean! We eat literally hundreds of millions of cans of beans in tomato sauce in a year. These are navy or haricot beans and the raw beans are not grown in the UK. They are imported from South America. 

Fava (broad) beans do grow very well in British soil and in Lincolnshire. If you get the opportunity to try them then you might find they are even more delicious and filling than the imported varieties. There are literally hundreds to try. 

Buying British grown beans will support this type of agriculture, and lead to an increase in sustainable rotation farming methods.

Then maybe one day the good old British baked bean might actually be truly British?

Hodmedod’s are one of the leading retailers of British grown beans and pulses.

They have developed a ‘British Baked Bean’ product which can be found online with a good catalogue of other cupboard staples.

They are also stocked in some supermarkets and wholefood retailers.

Adding beans to what we already eat

Including beans in lasagne, stews and soups adds to their nutritional value and means that the food that we are consuming is more sustainable.

When making a chilli don’t just stick to the regular kidney bean. Try all sorts of beans and find out which textures you like the best.

Here is a really simple recipe for a thick filling soup.  I can’t deny that my family often pile on heaps of cheese, chilli sauce and a LOT of bread but this makes an extraordinarily cheap and nutritious base for a meal.

Simple carrot, bean & rosemary soup

  • 500g carrots
  • Rapeseed (or any other oil) for frying
  • 10cm sprig of rosemary
  • 1 tin (235g) any cooked white beans, cannellini, butter (lima) or white kidney beans
  • 1200ml vegetable stock
  • Salt & Pepper

Chop the top of the carrots off and wash them. Don’t peel them! Lots of flavour and fibre comes from the skin.

Put the carrots into a large heavy based pan with a little rapeseed oil and the sprig of rosemary.

Fry on a low heat with the lid on for 10 minutes, shaking or stirring occasionally. This will release the flavour from the rosemary and intensify the natural sugars of the carrots.

Add the beans and stock then bring to the boil. 

Turn down to a simmering heat and leave to cook for 20 minutes or until the chunks of carrot are really soft.

Important bit! Remove the tough central stalk of the rosemary but leave the leaves to be blitzed.

Blitz with a hand blender. You’ll have to work hard to catch all the carrots and get a silky smooth texture but it’s worth it. 

Enjoy!

Calling Lincolnshire chefs!

Are you a chef in Lincolnshire making wonderful dishes using British beans? We’d like to hear from you!

Beany recipes

More amazing recipes with pulses on from Hodmedod’s website:

New podcast about British legumes

More about pulses on this week’s podcast with Josiah Meldrum from Hodmedods – well worth a listen!

Sustainable Food Stories featuring Josiah Meldrum The Sustainable Food Trust Podcast

This week, Patrick is joined by Josiah Meldrum, co-founder of East-Anglia based Hodmedods, a company who are known for their UK grown grains and pulses, but who are also pioneers of food resilience, advocates of a return to long-forgotten crops and initiators of innovation in kitchens across the country. 
  1. Sustainable Food Stories featuring Josiah Meldrum
  2. Sustainable Food Stories featuring Gunhild Stordalen
  3. Sustainable Food Stories featuring Sue Pritchard
  4. Sustainable Food Stories featuring Lord Benyon
  5. Sustainable Food Stories featuring Nicolette Hahn Niman

Bread & Roses

A photo-essay following local food in Boston, Lincolnshire, presented at the Harvest Supper hosted by the High Sheriff of Lincolnshire at Lincoln Cathedral, October 2021

Photographs by Henry Kenyon

How do we celebrate and give thanks for the harvest in Lincolnshire, the Breadbasket of Britain, where poverty this year has given rise to 49 (and still counting) foodbanks in the county?

What does it mean to share the harvest, in a nation of rising poverty and falling nourishment, despite an oversupply of cheap ultra-processed food?

Celebrating the Harvest in 2021

Photo by Henry Kenyon

As tinned food destined for foodbanks are stacked in with decorative bouquets of wheat and the odd pumpkin not intended for eating, maybe you, too, sense a jarring disconnect between land, people and food. 

And there’s a danger at harvest time of presenting a quaint, nostalgic and misleading picture of the food system. 

We want to celebrate and share, but we also need to act on the dangerous flaws in our food system: that exacerbate climate change and environmental degradation; that make us ill through a vicious junk food cycle; and that systemically make it hardest for the poorest people to access decent food.

“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”

Attributed to Bishop Hélder Câmara

The High Sheriff’s Harvest Supper

Tradition has it that the High Sheriff of Lincolnshire hosts a harvest supper at Lincoln Cathedral, and this year our High Sheriff, Claire Birch, wanted to find ways of highlighting the food issues in the county.

I’d recently returned from a visit to Willoughby Road Allotments in Boston, and I knew Boston had a food story to tell. One that is healing, nourishing, delicious, and that is different and better than the ones we normally hear, about obesity levels and Brexit votes.

Photos by Henry Kenyon

Bread & Roses – a photo-essay

Photo by Henry Kenyon

Bread & Roses, a photo-essay by observational photographer Henry Kenyon, documents two brief days spent in Boston, foregrounding some of the connections of local residents with the source of their food, and with each other.

Bread & Roses, originally a poem written by James Oppenheim, and sung at the event by Naomi L’Estrange and choir – speaks of the human need and longing for beauty, goodness and flourishing as well as basic nourishment. 

We named the photo-essay after the poem, and used photography to trace connections in an ecology of food that give us hope for a more humane, connected and generous future. A future where the dominant food system is not dictated by maximising productivity by cutting prices and corners, or simplistic calculations of energy and nutrient density; but one which values the earth, and recognises the beauty, care and dignity inherent in producing good food.

Boston’s small food producers

At Maud Foster windmill we witness the skilled, autonomous work of miller, Richard Waterfield, grinding Lincolnshire grain into flour using 200 year old wind power technology.

Photo by Henry Kenyon

Sonya at Greenfield Bakers bakes Maud Foster flour into fresh bread (served at the Harvest Supper) at her oven in Friskney, fuelled by sustainably sourced wood, for local customers.

Willoughby Road allotments (where Sonya runs baking workshops in the allotment kitchen) runs between the Maud Foster Drain and the Pilgrim Hospital. 

Neighbours from many backgrounds – doctors and patients, yellabellies and new-comers – come together over food-growing, and pass on their skills and enthusiasm to each other and the next generation.

Photo by Henry Kenyon

The sharing of the harvest

Allotment holders, and passers-through on the footpath to the Pilgrim Hospital, raise funds and gift produce to local foodbanks, in solidarity with those in the community who struggle to put food on the table. 

This includes regular donations of money and vegetables to Centrepoint Outreach, which offers support to people facing homelessness and who are vulnerably housed.

At their weekly cooking club, participants gather around the task of cooking a meal; shared food is reinstated at the heart of community. It is time wonderfully spent.

Photo by Henry Kenyon

We whole-heartedly want to celebrate this work and express our gratitude to these people.

Be a food citizen

We hope that in sharing Bread & Roses – a brief foodie journey through Boston, through Henry’s photographs – we will inspire people in Lincolnshire to participate in a just and sustainable food system – whether that means being involved in a local foodbank or community food project, sharing a meal or your knowledge of food-growing with a child or after school club, growing herbs or fruit in your garden or neighbourhood, or supporting small food businesses and local farmers markets. 

We are so much more than consumers at the end of a long and damaging industrial supply chain. We are food citizens, who share a responsibility in working out a better food system for everyone.

Bread & Roses: sharing the harvest in Lincolnshire
Photos by @Henry_MB_Kenyon
Harvest Supper hosted by @LincolnshireHS

Harvest Supper at Lincoln Cathedral 2021
Photo by Howell Thomas

Bread & Roses

As we come marching, marching, in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill-lofts grey
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing, “Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses.”

As we come marching, marching, we battle, too, for men—
For they are women’s children and we mother them again.
Our days shall not be sweated from birth until life closes—
Hearts starve as well as bodies: Give us Bread, but give us Roses.

As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient song of Bread;
Small art and love and beauty their trudging spirits knew—
Yes, it is Bread we fight for—but we fight for Roses, too.

As we come marching, marching, we bring the Greater Days—
The rising of the women means the rising of the race.
No more the drudge and idler—ten that toil where one reposes
But a sharing of life’s glories: Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses.

James Oppenheim, 1911

Willoughby Road Allotment Association

The Power of Allotments for Community, Kindness and Learning

Allotments are often sites of surprising diversity, community, wellbeing and intergenerational connection.

But the people of Willoughby Road Allotment Association have taken this to a whole new level, and show the incredible capacity for allotment spaces to bring diverse communities together, and to propagate kindness!

I spoke with Paul Collingwood and Gerry Ladds, who are instrumental in running the Allotment Association, and have dedicated their retirement to the health and cohesion of their community, through growing and sharing food on the allotments.

More than just allotments

As the local council became increasingly stretched due to the political and economic climate, and the once “peppercorn” allotment rent kept going up, the allotment holders came under pressure to take on responsibility for managing the Willoughby Road allotment site in Boston. 

Eight years ago, they decided to take charge of their own destiny, by forming an allotment association.

The Willoughby Road Allotment Association (WRAA) continues to have a positive relationship with the local council, pays them £500/year in rent, and runs new ideas past them. But it is now run by a committee of plot holders, who came together with a vision to do much more than just sustain the allotments for themselves.

They are on a mission to create a community, where food brings people together; that benefits their health; that facilitates social interaction and cohesion; that integrates art, nature and friendship; that makes everyone feel welcome; that helps restore our connection with where our food comes from; and that passes on knowledge, skills and a love of growing to future generations. 

Wheelchair accessible ramp to toilets
Accessible toilet block
Community Orchard

Think that’s a bit ambitious? You’d better read on….

A place for community

Paul’s community values were forged in his work life, in the electrical industry, where he found exceptional strength of community, high levels of trust and respect, and willingness of workers to help each other. 

When the recession forced him into retirement, he knew on a deep level the importance of community. 

Paul and Gerry made it their mission to include more families and younger people at WRAA, and create a welcoming space for everyone.

Not everyone was on board at first – some of the older allotment holders at first just wanted to be allowed to get on with it in peace! 

The group had to explain their hopes and intentions, and persuade some of the plot holders of the value of change, and the importance of handing on skills and opportunities to the next generation. 

Once people understood, they were won over!

“At the end of the day, we can’t do anything without the support of the plot holders. We need everyone on board.”  

A place for health

Photo credit: WRAA

The Willoughby Road Allotments site has a public footpath running through the middle, running between Willoughby Road and Pilgrim hospital.

Unsurprisingly, it is a route well trod by doctors and medical staff, as well as patients. 

The health benefits of allotmenting, mental and physical, are not lost on those who pass through!

WRAA has done fund-raising to support the stroke ward, and are beginning to form a working partnership with the NHS. 

They have recently created an area known as Nature’s Happy Space (NHS!) – a designated peaceful corner for NHS staff and patients to come and relax and take a little time to breathe deeply. 

photo credit: WRAA

Where Boston is infamous for its high rates of obesity, the allotments provide a connection with fresh, healthy food as well as gentle exercise.

Plans are also afoot to offer social prescribing on the site – so doctors can recommend social and therapeutic outdoor activities to patients, to support and complement and sometimes even avoid medical intervention.

It is not so much a path to the hospital, as it is a path away from hospital!

A place for everyone

Boston’s population is diverse and multicultural, but sometimes tensions arise. WRAA was keen to encourage greater diversity on the site, and help bring about greater social cohesion. 

Meeting over allotments is a particular opportunity to get to know people who we might not otherwise interact with. 

“People arrive as strangers, and go away talking to each other, helping each other, and swapping plants!”

Paul Collingwood

As well as dismantling walls of racial prejudice, the allotments also have a role in restorative justice: there is an area that is looked after by the Youth Justice team, where young people can do community service.

A place for learning

The WRAA does a lot to work with local scout groups, schools (including Wyberton, the bee-keeping school!) and nurseries, who are keen to visit and learn about food growing, and the allotment holders often support local school growing projects with plug plants as well as growing advice and inspiration.

photo credit: Incredible Edible network

This support and connection with children, and the passing on of skills from one generation to the next, is invaluable – I really don’t think this can be understated!

It can make all the difference to the long term success of a school growing project: children take home what they have learnt, and the influence on children’s interests and taste experience goes beyond what we parents can ever do at home!

Local chefs also connect with WRAA, and this link helps them discover how super-fresh local herbs and veg can make a difference to the meals they create, and helps them to make a connection between the food they serve and the land we live on!

A place for kindness

During the pandemic, WRAA played a part in supporting foodbanks in Boston and Paul and Gerry were moved by the immensity of the response by local people.

People just wanted to help – and the donations, cash, tinned food and allotment produce mounted up and up. Everyone who could wanted to give something back to their community.

Foodbank donations in baked bean tin!

A local farmer donates his surplus plants – Paul shows me a string of plug plants designed to go quickly and neatly into the ground behind a tractor. 

Recently, a couple who witnessed the work going on at WRAA were moved to donate a costly porous path cover, to make the footpath through the site smoother and more accessible to wheelchairs and older adults in all weathers.

One elderly allotment holder deliberately drilled holes in his fence at child-height, so youngsters walking through can peep through into…

But in a way this should come as no surprise: kindness begets kindness!

Find out more:

Visit WRAA – The path through the allotments is open 9am-5pm Monday-Friday.

Open Day – Sunday August 22nd – 10:30am-4:00pm – £4 admission. Wheelchair accessible. Refreshments, tombola, etc

Take a leaf from the WRAA book – Get on your local allotment waiting list, or start making magic at your allotment site, and share this with anyone else who might be inspired to action!

Get in touch with WRAA to find out how you can get involved, offer support or donate resources or money to projects and activities – admin@wraa.org.uk

Follow WRAA on social media – 

The amazing Willoughby Road Allotment Association @WRAABoston

More from our blog:

Centrepoint Outreach, CEO holds a box of tinned food. photo by Henry Kenyon

Bread & Roses

A photo-essay following local food in Boston, Lincolnshire, presented at the Harvest Supper hosted by the High Sheriff of Lincolnshire at Lincoln Cathedral, October 2021.

And a few reflections on it, by Laura Stratford.

family allotment plot

Low Fulney Family Allotments

Family Services Goes Outdoors! “We were working with a group of Young People who were permanently excluded from school, and there was this one girl who told us about her trips with her Grandad to his allotment. They were good memories. So we said to ourselves, could we have an allotment, where more young young people could make happy memories together? And the answer was yes.” Tracy Cuthbert – Early Help Worker Grow & Share That was aContinue reading “Low Fulney Family Allotments”

Gosberton House Academy

At Gosberton House Academy, all children get to grow vegetables from seed, cook every week, and eat the things that they have grown on the site. I know full well that plenty of children get little more experience of growing food than germinating a broad bean in a yoghurt pot!  So I had to go and have a look… I will share with you on the tour that I was taken on by vice principal, Paul Squire. AndContinue reading “Gosberton House Academy”

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