A Bit of History
Allotments as we know them started to appear at the time of the Enclosures, when many people lost their rights to use common land. Allotments were initially designed to give families a way to grow extra food for themselves, but not to produce surplus for sale.
The allotment movement in Britain received big boosts during both wars, but the number of plots has fallen significantly since then, and much of the available land has been lost to development. At the same time, the there has been a shift towards allotment gardening as a popular leisure activity.
Here in Leeds and the surrounding district there are about 100 allotment sites. About 60% are self managed, and the rest – mostly smaller sites – are administered directly by Leeds City Council. About 55 sites are members of the Leeds and District Allotment Gardeners Federation, which works on behalf of all the allotment gardeners of Leeds.
Getting a Plot
On our Members page there is a list of all the sites which are members of the Federation. Where we can, we list contact details for each site. In some cases you might need to visit a site and ask around about joining. The Members page also has a link to an interactive map of nearly all allotment sites in Leeds.
For plots outside of Leeds and district, have a look at All About Allotments, a collection of links to just about everything to to with allotments, maintained by volunteer allotment holders.
Many sites have a waiting list, which might mean you have to wait for a year or two. Keeping an allotment is quite a lot of work, but the rewards are great: delicious fresh food, time spent in the open air getting close to nature, and friendly folk around you. It is no accident that gardeners are some of the healthiest and happiest people around.
Self management means that the gardeners on an allotment site form themselves into an allotment association and lease the land from the owner, usually the city council. The allotment association is responsible for collecting rent from the plot holders, and paying a percentage of this to the land owner. They also take responsibility for letting plots, doing regular inspections to make sure that plots are being cultivated and kept in a safe condition, and maintaining footpaths and other common resources.
The advantage of self management is that the plot holders have a much bigger say in how their site is run. Most city councils are short of money to spend on things like allotments, which means that it is difficult for them to maintain sites to the sort of high standards they would like. An allotment association can apply for grant funding from sources like the National Lottery, and make improvements to the site like communal toilets, a shop, parking areas, better security, etc.