Let’s Dig a Healthier Nation.

And for the last time, I sort of promise, allotments. Personally I believe they should be offered to everyone over the age of 65. The reasons are clear, and doctors should be able to hand out allotments on prescription. In a recent study in the Netherlands, measuring the health of in people holding allotments with their immediate neighbours, and after correcting for extraneous factors, young allotment holders were no healthier than their none allotment holder neighbours. However and this is the crucial part, those over the age of 62 scored better on every single measure of health and well-being. Gardening helps people to relax; half an hour of gardening has been found to lead to a significant drop in cortisol levels (a commonly used measure of stress). Regular, gentle exercise associated with gardening, or to the health-giving properties of the food grown, are sure to be beneficial.

I did not own an allotment until I had just passed my 60th birthday, I decided to have a go, not for the reasons one might thing, ‘digging for victory’ or saving the planet. I, by default, had become a carer and so never able to stray too far from home each day. However, caring is not a nine to five job, I needed somewhere, quiet, that I might escape to and just unwind, so I know first-hand the benefit of an allotment on all these levels. Then there is the benefit of being amongst like-minded people, allotments are like a small community and all potential friends.

At the last count ninety thousand people had their name on a waiting list for an allotment (and they are not alone in wishing to have a place of their own to escape to, read Lesley Riddoch ‘Huts’.) we have discuses land reform in the past, and how the feudal system that exists in Scotland today make obtaining land almost impossible for potential hutters, and likewise allotment holders, yet the council and governments, can and dose, compulsory purchase land, why not for allotments and hutters.

Outrageous, I hear you cry.

The construction of the new HS2 mainline will require the compulsory purchase of a much larger area of land that would be required to satisfy hutters and allotment holders, including hundreds of people’s homes.

Where will the money come from, is always the rebuff when anything new is proposed, what about a small percentage of the £3 billion given in farming subsidy. You could start by using some of the money to host free training events, encourage the uptake of allotments and help off-put some of the start-up costs. Cultivating the land by farm machinery before the allotments are divided up would be a starter for ten.

When we first started our allotment it was a very overgrown weed patch of ground let from a local farmer. The bottom quarter was very wet so was used by people wishing to keep animals and birds. The land was first fenced off and pigs were introduces as piglets, by they time they went off for slaughter the land, was free from weeds, manured and cultivated, better than by any mechanical means, our starter for ten.

The benefits of allotments are so numerous that I don’t even have to list them, but just too close. Allotments will not solve the world’s problems but would be a step in the right direction. Every new allotment created on farmland would bring people back onto the land, increase food production, (and locally) capture carbon back into the soil, increase biodiversity, reduce pesticide use, and improve the health of ageing allotment owners, whilst at the same time reducing the burden on the NHS, what’s not to like? How much would the NHS save if people were healthier, happier and not suffering from problems caused by being grossly overweight, you will not see too many overweight people on an allotment, not even in the over 60s bracket, let us oldies go down the hill more slowly, free up land for allotments.

As John Lennon would have put it,

“There are no problems in this world, just solutions”.

I’m off now on my bike,

Stay safe.

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