A lot to lose

Michael Jacques and Clare GrantMichael Jacques and Clare Grant

In the sixth of a series of articles by plot holders at the Redbridge Lane West allotments – which are under threat – Deborah Williams of Sprout There! introduces two people for whom the site is very important

Since Cadent gas company has requested to use the Redbridge Lane West allotments to undertake maintenance on their adjacent site, there has been an outpouring of support to preserve this precious green space.

Sprout There! (Uniting Friends) is a horticulture project for adults with learning disabilities based at the allotment. We provide our members not just practical skills but a social and therapeutic space for everyone who attends. For some who have struggled with isolation and their mental health, being at our allotment can be a transformative experience. To lose the site, its community and its biodiversity would be yet another blow. Just listen to Michael and Clare’s story.

Michael Jacques (volunteer)
I have looked after my brother Paul who has Down’s syndrome since 2009. I was a full-time carer for our mum too, who passed away in 2011. Uniting Friends do a terrific job with my brother Paul and he enjoys going there. I wanted to give something back, so in 2012, I found out they had an allotment and applied to be a volunteer. I met Deborah who runs the allotment and it turned out she was the inspiration I was looking for. She gave me the growing bug and I haven’t looked back!

I left school at 16 and worked on a building site. I learnt a lot, which has helped with the allotment. I have made compost bins and a leaf mould bin from decking boards, as well as benches from old pallets. I do the usual digging, hoeing and weeding, which is never-ending, but I would not change a thing.

The allotment is very important to me; it’s not easy being a carer. It can be hard physically, mentally and financially. While Paul is at Uniting Friends he is being looked after, so I can go to the allotment and enjoy myself. I hate to think what I would be doing now without it. It has been a lifeline. It has given me a sense of well-being, and without the allotment I would feel lost. Things may be tough, but with the allotment, I’m happy.

Clare Grant (employee)
I have been attending the allotment since July 2021. I used to be an admin assistant in the Uniting Friends office but now I have started a new role working with Deborah. I have learnt a lot from her about planting, sowing, watering, plant names and everything that goes with it. The allotment makes me feel relaxed, happy and not stressed. It makes me feel great inside. Cadent gas company will destroy what Uniting Friends has done here and for all of the people who use this site. This is a place where we grow our own fruit and veg. I would feel very annoyed and upset if this ever happens.

For more information on Sprout There!, visit wnstd.com/st

To view the petition to save the Redbridge Lane West allotments, visit wnstd.com/rlw

Author: Editor