A lot to lose

King-Cups©Roger Snook

In the eighth of a series of articles by plot holders at the Redbridge Lane West allotments – which are under threat from the adjacent gas works – Roger Snook explains why the site is a lifeline for him and others

Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote a poem, Inversnaid, in which he made the following plea for the preservation of our rich, yet vulnerable, wildlife and wild places.

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and wilderness yet.

You might think the last things allotment holders want are the three Ws (weeds, wildness and wilderness). At the moment, as winter continues, our allotments are bare and like a wilderness. But, beneath the ground, they are preparing for this year’s harvests. We like wild animals and wild flowers (weeds) wherever we can make room for them, and have recorded nearly 200 species on our allotments. (There is a photographic display of them on the Redbridge Lane West gate.) The allotments have become a sanctuary for wildlife, and a green lung, refreshing the air in the midst of urbanisation and motorways.

Now, we find that Cadent, the multimillion-pound gas giant, wants to turn some of our allotments into a temporary (two-year-long!) plant and equipment store and heavy vehicle roadway while they simply erect a new electric fence and carry out other minor upgrades. Some plot holders will lose a significant part of their land permanently!

Gas burning is a major pollutant and petrol burning even more so. We are desperately trying to make the obvious plain to Cadent: find somewhere else for your plant and vehicles and rethink your plans for moving materials on, off and within your site without land-grabbing ours. We are trusting our councillors (who have a strong ‘green’ manifesto) and our community (4000-plus of whom have already signed our petition), to protect this irreplaceable amenity.

I am 80 years old and disabled. The allotment is a lifeline for me, as it is for many others, young and old, well and unwell, all sexes and of many ethnic groups and religions. I’m what Big Brother, in his official documents, calls ‘white English’, and David Wright, my fellow allotment holder for the last nearly 20 years, is half my age and of Jamaican extraction. I taught for 40-odd years at Ilford County High School for Boys, and David is a local university lecturer, born in Brum.

We allotment holders are a happy band of pilgrims from all walks of life – and very much want it to stay that way! We often grow more than we need and are able to give produce to elderly folk living on their own and to homes giving respite care. It is not only a close-knit community of growers, the allotments are very much a part of Wanstead life. Please do all you can to support our cause.

To view more wildlife photos taken by Roger and David, visit wnstd.com/eln
To view the petition to save the Redbridge Lane West allotments, visit wnstd.com/sta