A little piece of the countryside right in the middle of town is how Ramsgate mum-of-three Kaye Daniels describes Chilton East allotments.
The former Thanet College tutor is a volunteer site manager along with husband Paul, looking after the 134 plot site and looking out for all those who spend time there.
And if you thought allotments were all cabbages and spuds then Chilton East is an eyeopener with everything from grapevines and Godfreys’ giant garlic to bantam hens, resident cats and bats and even beehives.
Nan-of-four Kaye said: “We are a community here. My role is voluntary, I show the plots and keep an eye on the site. I try and keep the site full with plots filled as quickly as possible. We have around 50 on the waiting list and there are 134 plots. This will go up to around 140 as we are expanding but there is no other land available so vacant half plots are being made into quarter plots.
“We have a wide variety of plot-holders, old and young and all different nationalities. A lot of people live on their own and might not see many people if they didn’t come here. Some live in flats and will have nowhere to grow. One of our eldest plot holders is 84 and then you go down to the kids. Here, we all look out for one another.”
The site was spartan when Kaye and Paul took over in 2012, consisting of plots, a shed and toilets.
But, following lots of work and a fundraiser, the allotments now have a clubhouse with kitchen, furniture, drawing pots for the youngsters, a seed share tin, shared books and space out the front for the annual barbecue.
There are also flowerbeds, a metal recycling point, areas with manure, seaweed and chipped bark, a container with a workshop inside, a wildlife garden and a bug house.
The array of produce grown at the site is also huge. The mum-of-three, whose daughters also have plots, harvests everything from leeks, cabbages and carrots to peaches, rhubarb and blueberries. The idyllic spot also has bantam hens, a pond and a kitchen.
She said: “We bring the children here and they will pick their veg and then we prepare and eat it. People literally just grow what they want to eat and if they have too much, they put it on the table (by the clubhouse) for someone else to take.”
Wildlife is important too. The allotments have been awarded with a gold disc from the Kent Wildlife Trust.
Kaye said: “There are the resident cats and foxes, the bats, rats and mice. They are all part of the cycle. We have the wildlife area and the bughouse. The school(Chilton primary) has an allotment and in the Summer they sometimes have their music lesson there which is lovely.”
As a welcome gift every new plot holder gets some ‘Godfrey’s garlic.’ These are giant garlic created by plot holder Godfrey before he passed away.
Kaye said: “He was the site guru, here every day even at Christmas. He developed the garlic and now the new plot holders are given it. The garlic is even at the kitchen garden at Stanstead House and we have a garlic competition every year at our barbecue which is judged by Godfrey’s son Aaron.”
The allotment group is also involved in the community and this year raised £300 to be split between the RNLI and Pilgrims Hospices.
Allotments in Thanet are looked after by town and parish councils, or the district council for Margate plots. To find out who to contact for your area go to thanet.gov.uk/info-pages/allotments/
Did you know….
During World War Two the government launched a Dig for Victory campaign that called for every man and woman in Britain to keep an allotment. Lawns and flower-beds were turned into vegetable gardens. Some ten million instructional leaflets were distributed, and it was estimated that more than 1,400,000 people had allotments.