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Allotments springing up as Britain digs into good food.

Byline: By Paul Rowland Western Mail

Wales is lagging behind in the league table of allotments, missing out on valuable health benefits, a new survey shows. The image of only grandads growing their carrots on the urban strips of garden has become a thing of the past as campaigns to promote healthy eating and outdoor living are make allotments trendy again. But Wales has been warned it could be missing out on the boom, as the country has a smaller aggregate area of land dedicated to allotments than every region in England.

An investigation by consumer magazine Gardening Which? found that Wales has a total of 206 hectares of land assigned for the purpose - five times less than the South East of England.

The rural nature of much of Wales has traditionally meant that with most houses having space for gardens in which to grow greens, there has been little need for allotments.

But with urbanisation continuing apace in many areas of Wales, and the centres of many of the country's major towns and cities becoming more populated, demand for allotments among families and young professionals is likely to increase significantly.

This is happening more and more with high-profile campaigns supporting healthy eating, according to gardening expert Terry Walton.

'Years ago, allotments were the domain of retired guys in flat caps, but it's now the domain of professional people and families,' he said. 'They are not happy with buying pre-packed supermarket goods any more - they want organic food, where they can see it being grown and taste the flavour.

'One of the reasons we have so few allotments in Wales is that miners' cottages had large gardens where you could grow a lot of things, but with more inner-town developments, people will increasingly look for little plots of land on the edges of town to cultivate.

'In the past, allotments have been big plots of land, but people don't want that anymore - they want smaller areas, where they can grow their favourite things. They don't want traditional things like potatoes and carrots so much anymore, they want herbs, outdoor tomatoes, chillies - what us traditionalists would call exotic plants.'

Mr Walton, who keeps an allotment in Llwynypia, in the Rhondda, said keeping an allotment had advantages for people of all ages. 'There's lots of plus points,' he said. 'People spend a fortune on joining these fitness clubs and gyms, but allotments let you get out in the open air as much as you like for a few pounds a year.

'There's no need to kill yourself with physical exercise - it's about going out there and doing as much as you feel comfortable with. And you end up getting an automatic year-round tan, so you don't need to spend all your money in tanning salons either.

'It's also a good social activity. There's a lot of friendly communication between all the other people with allotments, as well as having the benefit of being able to take home lots of lovely fresh produce.

'It's a real sharing community - no self-respecting allotmenteer would let another go away empty-handed.'

Julia Boulton, editor of Gardening Which?

added, 'Wherever you live, allotments are a great way to grow your own vegetables, enjoy the great outdoors, and get families involved in gardening.': The allotment league:(aggregate area of land allocated for allotments in hectares) 1. South-east England 1,063 2. Greater London 907 3. East Midlands 807 4. West Midlands 616 5. Yorkshire & Humberside 612 6. East of England 422 7. North-east England 371 8. South-west England 303 9. North-west England 270 10. Wales 206
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 13, 2006
Words:597
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