Hopefuls dig in for a long wait

Wendy Beal with grand child Alfie at her allotment in the Rivelin Valley which has been judged the most environmentally friendly in an annual allotment competition

Wendy Beal with grand child Alfie at her allotment in the Rivelin Valley which has been judged the most environmentally friendly in an annual allotment competition

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ABOUT 1,400 gardeners are waiting for an allotment in Sheffield – many of them looking for a plot in the south or south-west of the city.

Demand grew in line with an explosion in interest in producing your own food, fuelled by TV gardening programmes.

Two years ago, Sheffield’s waiting lists had reached 2,300. A council drive to create more allotments – sometimes splitting bigger pieces of land - and to make it easier to take over sites has seen the numbers drop.

Demand has now reached a plateau, but is still at a high level, says the council’s allotments manager, Michael Peacock.

And enthusiasts can expect a long wait for the most popular parts of Sheffield, roughly an arc between Rivelin Valley and Totley indenting to Woodseats. At Archer Lane and Woodseats, it is at least five years.

Gardeners with a good plot tend to dig in for the long run, which can frustrate newcomers, who are of all ages.

“It’s everybody and anybody,” says Michael. “They are popular with families. There is a generation brought up with a knowledge of food, organic growing and local food miles.

“We still have a lot of people who are retired and enjoy the peace of an allotment, but there are also a lot of young people and their friends who share allotments.

“Demand is steady. The waiting lists aren’t spiralling out of control but 1,400 is still a lot.”

The council is hoping to find more places where demand is highest. But it has to tread carefully. Not everybody wants allotments at the bottom of their garden or to see a valued piece of community green space dug up.

Most recently, the authority ran into opposition over the use of land off Mickley Lane, Totley, which has now been handed to allotment holders.

“We are looking for new sites in the south and south west to try to address where there is a peak demand that has been sustained,” says Michael.