St. Margarets Allotments Association Newsletter & Renewal Request,
Please pay the appropriate amount mentioned on the slip included with this newsletter (what's appropriate depends on whether or not you've used a hosepipe at all this season). Please pay by cheque made out to St. Margarets Allotments Association, and deliver it to the treasurer, David Flower, at 26 Briardene (opposite the plots). If you have to pay in cash, please pay him in person, and he'll give you a receipt. Please pay up as soon as possible, and not later than November 30th. There will be a 10% surcharge on rent and dues for members who don't pay even after receiving a reminder.
· The Annual Fair at the beginning of September was more succesful than ever, netting over £400. Our Chair, Muriel Sawbridge, who organized it, surely deserves much of the credit, but she wants to share that credit with all of those who helped. This is her report: "it was very heartening that just over half the allotment holders contributed goods and produce. I understand that the money will help to keep the rents down which benefits everyone and we need to find a way for everyone to participate next year if only by giving a cabbage or a basket of fruit. I learnt a lot and think we could make much more on the day if we were better organised. If you can think of anything that would improve the organisation I would be really glad to hear from you."
- Norman Mollon, one of our longest-standing members, once again won the prize from the "City in Bloom" organization for the best-kept allotment. Congratulations, Norman-- it's a super-looking plot.
· The AGM will take place in the upper room at St. Margarets Centre (the old school) at 7-30 p.m. on Friday 9th. November. The business will include officers' reports, nominations and elections, and any members' items. If there's anything you'd like to have discussed, please bring it to my attention beforehand.
- Nominations and Elections. All of the officers are available for re-election. Due to a change of heart on my part, and on the understanding that more assistance will be available with certain time-consuming tasks (notably the printing and distribution of newsletters and rent requests to the majority of members who can't receive them by e-mail), I'm ready to carry on for another year.
- David, as usual, has really been the person who keeps the Association going, doing most of the admin. as well as the regular maintenance of hedges and paths that members bordering them have neglected, and the communal grass areas. He's done more this year than ever, in fact, because he acquired a powered hedge-trimmer last year, partly from Association funds, and partly with a community grant from Black & Decker, which he took the initiative to get. But he shouldn't have to do so much: members with hedges bordering paths should keep them well under control without having to be badgered about it.
- The Parking Problem, about which there was a lot of to-do last year, involving correspondence and meetings between your officers and the County Council, and a well-attended Extraordinary General Meeting, has turned out to be less of an issue than we feared, largely because any member living within a parking-control zone has been able to use his/her guest parking tickets to park during the day outside the plots. I must apologize for not having organized 'twinning' of car-dependent members outside the zone with those inside it. This was largely because of pressure of work, which is also the reason why I don't want to carry on doing all the secretarial job. But it was also because it seemed, talking to people, that they were making their own arrangements. We should certainly talk about this question at the AGM.
- The site is almost 100% let, and better than 90% cultivated. We have acquired a dozen new members this year, who have taken on almost all the neglected plots which former members had abandoned, but which in some cases I had to shake them off. That's more turnover than usual. Some existing members who are cultivating well, and whose plots neighboured abandoned land, have also been given additional space. The end result is that the site is full and the waiting list is empty. If you know anybody who'd like an allotment, please put them in touch with me: a good waiting list is one of our strongest protections.
- IF YOU HAVEN'T trimmed your hedge, please do so now. This is a good time for it, because you can put your trimmings on the communal bonfire, or -- even better -- you can leave them to dry on your own plot and have your own little almost smokeless bonfire in due course, between 5th. November and the end of March. The Association depends on its members keeping their own plots, hedges, and paths in order. There isn't any "Them" who will do these things -- there's only Us.
- The Communal Bonfire: David and I want nothing to do with this, because we have been concerned, as officers of the Association, about its collective and any individual liability should there be an accident. However, we cannot stop members building and lighting a fire if you wish to do that. But please don't put anything on it that's outwith the normal guidelines for what can be properly burnt. Basically, hedge trimmings and other dry wood are OK; but last year people were bringing piles of green weeds, old carpets, even barrowloads of soil -- stuff that either ought to have been composted and wouldn't burn well, would smoke and stink, or wouldn't burn at all. Given the amount of rain we've had recently, even hedge trimmings probably won't burn too well on the 5th, and what doesn't will need to be burnt by degrees afterwards.
- Other Bonfires: the new rules introduced following the 1999 AGM seem to have been abided by pretty well. I'm only aware of a couple of bonfires having been lit during the "closed period" this summer, one of them by a new member who (my fault) had not received a copy of the rules. During the "open season" for fires, which runs from 5th. November until the end of March, you should still do your best to minimize smoke and the offense it causes to members and neighbours alike. If any members have not got a copy of the amended Bonfire Rules that were distributed earlier this year, please ask.
- Shed Break-ins: there have been the usual incidents this year, and some vandalism. It's no consolation to say that our problems are still much less bad than those on many sites, but it's true. The police aren't very interested, and there's no real solution. About the only steps I can recommend are (i) don't leave anything in your shed that you'd be sorry to lose, and (ii) don't lock it, as this should send a message there's nothing worth stealing, and you won't have to mend the lock after some idiot has found that out the hard way.
- As well as our usual problems with what one member calls, very charmingly, 'two-legged vermin,' we have had an increasing amount of trouble from the four-legged variety this year. At least one rabbit has been spotted in the Churchyard, and a family of badgers has left its mark on many plots. Members may find this a bit annoying, but please remember that badgers are a protected species, and let's all be philosophical about this -- we share our bit of earth with all God's creatures, etc., and you can always buy very nice organic carrots at Sainsbury's. ("All God's creatures" also include the odd rat, but these are not protected. If you want help or guidance about poisoning rats, please contact me: it is important that, by the misuse of rat poison, we should not build up resistance among our local population. When you put down rat poison correctly, you end up with dead rats. If you do it wrongly, we may end up with Warfarin-resistant super rats.)
- Members who care about the disappearance of garden birds, and song thrushes, in particular -- which used to be common on the Allotments -- should also please be careful and sparing in the use of slug-bait, if you think you have to use it at all. Some of us seem to scatter it around like confetti. If you put it under a board, or a dish, the slugs can still get in, eat it, and die, but the birds are less likely to pick them up. The bait will also be protected from the weather, and last longer.
- The National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners publishes a very nice magazine every quarter. Its cover price is £2 an issue, but if you order it direct it'll only cost you £5 a year for all 4 issues to be posted to you. If you'd like to order Allotment & Leisure Gardener, write to The NSALG Ltd., O'Dell House, Hunters Rd., Corby, Northants NN17 5JE, mentioning that you're a member of this Association, which is affiliated to the NSALG, and including your name, address, and postcode, and a cheque for £5 made out to The National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners, Ltd.
- Finally, can I repeat my invitation to any members who use the Internet at home or at work to let me know their e-mail address. This has become an increasingly useful (and cheap!) way of getting information to members between newsletters, which cost quite a lot to print and distribute. 40 of our 95 members are now receiving newsletters and rental requests this way, which saves money and time.
See you at the AGM
(Tel. 386-6865, email firstname.lastname@example.org)