2010 finally saw the completion of the fence along the Black Path boundary. It has taken some time but it has been worth it. While we’re not absolutely secure, trespass and damage has been reduced to what was being experienced previously. We must now concentrate on reinforcing the fence at the other side of the site. Thanks to Craig Jones, we were able to acquire some fence panels to use in the corner by Bellburn Lane and the public footpath. But because we had to use more of our own funds for the Black Path than expected, there was nothing left to buy the fence posts needed. Hopefully this work will be done in the spring. As the barbed wire also needs to be restrung, we’d really appreciate it if a work party could be formed to help. Let us know if you want to be involved.

The Groundwork Project is also beginning to take shape. Although their bid for funding was not successful they are still determined to create a community garden.
They have managed to dig a ditch and ponds and put in a drainage inspection manhole. Their site has been levelled, raised beds marked out and a paved area leading to a polytunnel laid. The best news however is that they have secured funding for a composting toilet that will be for the use of everyone on site.

The County Durham Wildlife Trust has been contacted about creating a wildlife area and some more allotments on the land cleared when the fence was being erected. There is a pond that may house great crested newts, so care has to be taken to develop the land properly. Work cannot begin until about May/June when a survey will be done that should establish exactly what wildlife we have and how to proceed. The CDWT meanwhile are looking into grants that may be available. Some work has already been done to clean up this area and we ask members to stop dumping rubbish there.

Work was undertaken by John Moorhouse and Bob Morse to improve the drainage of the site, in particular to ensuring clear flow to sewers beyond our boundary. Thanks to Cllrs. Nicholson and Jones, we were put in touch with the Highways Dept. which was exceptionally helpful. Drains were traced, unblocked and jetted. The ditch was cleared and shored up where pipes take water off site and a gravel cage erected to avoid future blockages. Thanks also to Paul Richmond and Alan Chadwick for their assistance with this task as it has certainly eased some of the problems with flooding on site.

It’s a shame we can’t store the flood water because overuse/misuse also caused considerable concern this year. Water to the site is metered and as 2010 was very dry, this led to phenomenal water charges of £834.99. We ask all members to try to save as much rainwater as possible, only water when absolutely necessary and not use wasteful sprinklers. What was especially annoying were the instances of hoses being left connected to taps and running for days on some occasions. Anyone found wasting water in this way in future will incur a £10 a day fine and £5 for use of sprinklers.

As so much had to be spent on the fence and water bills, our funds are very low.
To continue with the programme of improvements and development of the site we will need more money. Where possible we will try to acquire grants but an increase in rent is needed. We propose that a full plot will now cost £50 and a half £25. Concessions will be £30 or £15 accordingly. We are sorry that we can no longer offer 50% discount but costs are rising and we have to be able to pay our way. At £50, a plot is still only £1 a week and as pensioners make most use of the site it is unfair to expect other members to subsidise them. Provisional dates for rent collection on site have been set for 3rd and 10th April.

It is hoped we can raise funds from other sources in 2011. A Plant Sale has been scheduled for Sat. 7th May. If you have any fund raising ideas please let us know. A provisional date for another Open Day for St Teresa’s Hospice has been set for 20th August.

Demand for plots is still very high; we have over fifty people on our waiting list.
To satisfy this demand we are going to have to be more rigorous about neglected or underused gardens in future. More formal inspections will take place and those who are not abiding by the terms of the agreement signed for cultivating plots will be asked to leave or reduce to a half plot. We ask that members who no longer wish to keep their gardens to let us know as soon as possible. There have been instances of tenants passing their plots onto friends, allowing them to queue jump. This is unfair and not allowed. Tenants also need to be aware that they will be held liable for any accidents or damage incurred by visitors they bring on site or allow to use their keys.

We wish everyone a productive year in their gardens and look forward to seeing you all at the AGM.
Jean Atkinson (Chair) and Nancy Oakley (Secretary)

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