Annual Report 2009/2010

At last we are beginning to see some of the improvements to the site that we’ve been working towards. We were awarded a grant of £10,000 from the National Lottery ‘Awards for All’ initiative to improve our security.


This, with some of our own funds, has been used to upgrade the entrance to the site and erect 150 metres of 2.4m steel palisade fence along the most vulnerable section of the boundary with the Black Path.


We have also been promised £5,000 in April 2010 by the County Durham Foundation, which will be used to extend the security fence further. It is hoped that eventually the fence will extend the entire length of the boundary, especially when Groundwork start work on site.

In spite of the above improvements, security is still a major issue. On a number of occasions last year, sheds were entered or broken into. Very little has actually been taken but the damage done is a real source of annoyance.


The police have been involved each time and they ask that we continue to inform them of trespass/robbery in order for them to maintain their ability to patrol the site. We ask plot holders to be vigilant, lock the gate at all times, avoid leaving anything of value in their sheds and wherever possible leave sheds unlocked to prevent damage being caused by forced entry.


On the evening of the 6th January, or the early morning of the 7th, the site was ‘visited’. Tracks in the snow show that they did not come over the fence, and possibly a vehicle was used. This implies that whoever is thieving is a key holder. Be warned.


Although progress has been slow, the Groundwork project is now underway. Work to clear and prepare the site started on the 1st February. They were held up considerably by the Council requiring that they had planning permission for the community garden, sheds, polytunnel and composting toilet that they intend to build. Planning consent has now been granted and application for funding has been made. This development will improve the site substantially.


While we’re sure that there are bound to be difficulties as a result of the exceptionally wet November/December and the January snow, 2009 was a good year.


20 plots were let to new gardeners – mostly half plots – but we still have around 40 people on the waiting list. Because demand is so high, we cannot allow plots to be neglected. An inspection was carried out to help the committee to decide which plot holders will not have their agreements renewed and who require warnings.


Uncultivated plots not only cause a nuisance to neighbouring gardeners, they are also costing the association money to return to a reasonable state. We are doing what we can to make the site look better so won’t allow neglected gardens spoil it. Please help us to avoid bad feeling and awkward situations by keeping gardens in good order.

A good community spirit was evident on a number of occasions in 2009. A successful Plant Sale/Swop was held on May 23rd.  £75 was raised but more importantly, many gardeners acquired stock of vegetables and flowers that they hadn’t considered growing previously.


This kind of co operation, and that which took place on our Open Day on 11th July, is what we’d like to see more of. Donations of plants and surplus produce raised £98.28 for St Teresa’s Hospice. They were delighted with the money and the leftover veg.


The hospice is a charitable organisation which has to provide meals for lots of people every day. If you ever have more produce than you can cope with they will happily accept your surplus.

Other community gatherings worth commenting on were the Bank Holiday BBQ and Bonfire night. Thanks to all who attended and, like those who got involved in the above events, helped to make Bellburn Allotments a friendly place to be. We intend to repeat these events in 2010. If you have any suggestions for other special days we should hold, please let us know. 

Our community garden has finally been finished and was much admired by members of other Darlington allotment associations when it was used as the venue for the council’s summer meeting. They were impressed at how people had come together to create the garden and were complimentary about how well many plots are cared for. Some who knew the site previously said they could see considerable improvement.


Another meeting was held at the Dolphin Centre in December, at which Bellburn seemed to have the most progressive attitude. We still have much to deal with but thanks to our supportive members it was good to be able to deliver a positive report.


There is a limit to what the council can do, but if they see we’re working hard ourselves they are more likely to help us where they can.

That brings us to where we need to thank members for the support they’ve given the association.


Firstly, thanks to Mike Crawley who has done a great deal of behind the scenes work on the committee. He has decided to step down but the help he has provided – and that of his daughter, Emma, who set up and maintains our website – has been invaluable.


Thanks also to Roger Maltby, who stood in as treasurer until Paul Burt took on the role.  

Thanks also to those who did lots of hard physical labour in the course of the year to maintain the site. To Paul Richmond, who laid the paths in the community garden more or less single-handedly. Yes he was awarded a gift but that was a mere fraction of what a professional would have charged. Likewise with John Moorhouse and Bob Morse, the amount they received is nothing compared to the effort they expended when reclaiming plots and cutting down trees to prepare for the new fence.  

Karl James must also be thanked. He is always there to lend a hand when required and is the site’s champion bonfire builder.

We know some people are not happy that occasionally members are paid for their help. We’re sorry but at present there is no alternative. The committee are unpaid and have very few volunteers but lots of work to do.

If you think you can help us in any way and help us to save money please contact Jean or Nancy. There’s a list of jobs that need doing and we’d welcome offers of help.

We hope you have an enjoyable and productive 2010.

Community Web Kit provided free by BT