A small street allotment project has taken off in Shrewsbury - with the idea now expanding to three different sites. The idea is to take over disused or rough pieces of land and repurpose them for the benefit of the community - it's not strictly 'guerilla' gardening, however, since this project comes with the blessing of the landowners.
The Shrewsbury street allotment project is the all-consuming passion of Casper Macindoe - aka ‘Street Allotment Guy’, who came up with the idea whilst furloughed from his usual job as assistant manager of The Crown in Coleham. He was inspired by urban garden projects such as the Incredible Edible Network, which aims to use growing as a visible sign of a kinder connected community.
He spotted a little patch of scrubland on Bell Lane, Abbey Foregate, and plucked up the courage to ask Hi-Q manager Rob Mazan if he could cultivate it: “Even I felt it was a silly idea but to my surprise, he said 'go for your life, mate!” Casper said.
In the 60 days the project has been live, it has accumulated almost 200sq metres of growing space, expanding from the first plot of 14sqm on Bell Lane, to a 20sqm space offered by The Abbey Pub, on Monkmoor Road, which has an additional three raised beds, and most recently The Monkmoor Pub plot, which is a massive 160sqm.
Despite having ‘zero gardening experience’ himself, Casper found support from professional gardener and allotmenteer Amy Porter and right-hand man David Philips, who fortunately is addicted to digging.” They have been joined by an array of helping hands from the local community and the band of allotmenteers is growing:
“We've had Mark Beale bring his chainsaw, Kevin Williams his bush cutter and strimmer, Andy Jordan and his brother Micheal Jordan adding brute force and a spade,” Casper explained.
There’s a wide variety of produce already in the ground: "We have a couple of varieties of first early new potatoes, various salad leaves, carrots, parsnips, garlic, broad beans, raspberries both regular and golden, rhubarb, nasturtiums, marigolds and strawberries...lots of strawberries!”
The whole project is supported by goodwill and a Facebook wish list: “Absolutely everything has come from donations: tools, compost, manure, seeds, a tomato greenhouse, compost bins, water butts, pallets, timber….everything!" Casper says.
“So much has been given freely to support this simple idea. It's also important to thank not only donors but the Facebook pages, such as For the Love of Shrewsbury, For the Love of Shropshire, Rea Brook Wonder Group and of course My Shrewsbury for allowing us to promote ourselves to a wider audience.”
Keep an eye on the Facebook page Street Allotment Guy to see if there's anything you can help with and Casper would love to hear from anyone with more land to spare too.
He may yet apply for grants to help expand the project and allow more members of the community to participate. The project is still in its infancy, but he would like to offer ‘a kind of stewardship’ of part plots to other budding allotmenteers or those waiting on council allotments. And Shrewsbury Food Hub has offered to help with the distribution of vegetables at harvest time.
“Distribution will become much easier when the pubs reopen as people begin to realise it's okay to take free fresh veg from the plots,” Casper said.
Casper also has a vision “to repair the disconnect between the plot and the plate” with hopes of inviting local chefs to get involved. He plans to try his own hand at making Kimchi from the first crop of radishes.
As the idea gains traction, Casper is confident they can find at least an acre of scrubland to convert within Shrewsbury, explaining that the plots can be quite small: “What we’ve found is that when you begin looking, there is fallow land all over the town.
“Much of it is managed by the council, but there’s a lot of space owned by businesses who have no immediate need and plenty of allotmenteers waiting in the wings for permission to grow food for the community.”
This spring, the team will focus on the plots they already have. They are even seeking a beekeeper to set a hive on the big Monkmoor Pub plot!
Casper would like to pay back some of the goodwill shown to the project by sharing seeds and seedlings.
It’s a cultural revolution - one seed a time!