The Funders View
Heptonstall is a small village community with a passion for self-sufficiency and green action. It is an upland environment, being very much "on the tops" where any form of growing has additional challenges. It is also a historically constructed village which often allows little room for gardens in the tight knit terraces. The allotment space is therefore an important community facility that brings people together, increases their self reliance and provides a learning space for food growers and their families.
Where is the Project?
Just behind the Bowling and Social Club in Heptonstall village, West Yorkshire. It is a truly spectacular setting, perched on the rim of vertiginous cliffs and steep wooded hillsides. On a clear day the views are panoramic, but not all days are clear in the South Pennines and standing more than 800 feet above sea level this spot is exposed and invariably windswept, challenging conditions for any horticulturalist.
The Project’s Story
There are 20 allotment plots in Heptonstall, popular new additions to the ancient hilltop village that stands above Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire. A group of enthusiastic gardeners had spotted a couple of strips of waste-land on the borders of the Bowling Club, “The land was pretty rough and covered in heather, but level ground is at a premium up here”, said Mike Pemsel a local resident and plot holder,
After negotiations with the Bowling Club, a lease was drafted to allow the land to be used for allotments. Mike continued, “It must have been January 2008 when the plots were marked out, we think the ground may have been cultivated in the past, but to be honest we may as well have been starting from scratch,” visibly glowing with pride, he added, “Our community worked really hard to get these plots to where they are now, we had to dig up tree stumps and move boulders, it was quite an undertaking.”
One serious drawback to the site was the lack of a spring or a well. “We get plenty of rain around here but even so, during the summer months you often need to water your plot, particularly the vegetables,” says Jayne Benson a neighbouring plot holder and local resident. Bath, buckets and tubs were used to collect rainwater on the plots, but that meant less ground for cultivation and never enough water to go around
“I often had to wheelbarrow our bathwater down the main street,” giggled Jayne, “it’s surprising how tricky an operation that can be, particularly over the cobbles!” “Hard work too” chipped in Andy Mackintosh, Jayne’s partner.
“Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best,” declared Jayne as she filled a watering can for her 4 year old daughter Bea, “Catching rainwater from the roof of the Bowling Club, then piping it to our allotments and storing it in tanks was quite straightforward, it has made life so much easier and the plots are more productive too.”
A system was devised whereby rainwater could be diverted from existing downpipes on the Bowling Club roof, the pipes would then drain the water to large storage tanks conveniently situated for the allotments. Two sites were excavated, each large enough to accommodate two 300 gallon tanks and low enough to allow for gravity feed from the roof.
“Yes It is a simple idea, but it took plenty of hard work beforehand,” explained Louise Marix-Evans, team leader for the project, “We organised communal days of action when we built bases for the tanks, they needed to be sturdy those tanks are heavy when full. Also, in order to achieve sufficient fall on the piping we had to keep on digging and digging.”
The total cost of the system was £4,000 with half of that being met by Pennine Leader and the remainder being raised within the community, expertise and muscle power were given for free. Louise enthused, “On installation day everyone was so helpful, one of the plot holders had all the tools, there was ladder work, plumbing and engineering, we drew upon everyone’s skills and at one point we were following instructions given down the ‘phone from the man who supplied us with the tanks, it was such a relief when it all came together.”
Louise continued, “This project really reflects the ethos of our allotments, one of our lease agreements is that we are organic gardeners, we occasionally have communal drops of manure, we organise regular work parties and we love to share our extra produce and swap gardening tips, there is a real team spirit.”
The success of these allotments and the water harvesting system is testament to the co-operation between the Bowling Club members, the plot holders and the community of Heptonstall as a whole long may it continue, well done.
The Project’s Vital Statistics
Population Benefiting : 20 families and an overall population of 838 in the village
Businesses benefiting : Riley Growers in Gloucestershire (4x300 gallon drums)
Jobs created /retained : 0
Villages supported : 1
Other sources of funding : the community
Sustainability : This system makes the plots much more viable and of course productive. Co-operation with the Bowling Club is going well.
Project Output and Outcomes : rainwater catchment system installed to make community allotments more viable in the long term