Connecting people to nature

Crosspool Community Allotment Open Day: National Trust ranger Rachel Bennett (centre) with volunteers and produce
Crosspool Community Allotment Open Day: National Trust ranger Rachel Bennett (centre) with volunteers and produce
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“I nearly turned back, it was such a nightmare,” said Peter Whitmill, allotmenteer from Crosspool Community Allotment.

Peter, along with his team of volunteers, started work on the allotment near Hagg Lane three years ago.

“It had grown out of control. But the soil work was excellent.”

You’d have expected nothing less from Richard Clare, expert vegetable grower from Sheffield Organic Food Initiative, who had worked hard to improve the allotment’s soil a few years before his sudden death in 2013.

Richard’s work is now helping the pupils of Lydgate Infant School, who recently joined the allotment volunteers, to collect organic apples and squeeze their own apple juice.

“We picked the apples by twisting them off,” said Eddie Thornely, aged 7,

“The apple juice was nice, but it looked a bit more orangey than it usually does.”

Lydgate teaching assistant Anne Collins said: “The kids are so animated. They get so much stimulus when they come out here, they adore it.”

Following Richard’s death, the allotment came to the attention of National Trust staff and volunteers from Longshaw, who decided to rent the site as a community allotment, a pioneering development for the National Trust.

The Trust helps the volunteers with tools, supplies and practical assistance, while the local team of allotment volunteers meets every week to carry out the work on site, with regular visits from Lydgate school pupils.

In only three years, the former nettled jungle has been cleared and dug down to reclaim paths dating back over the site’s 97 year history, and now grows everything from apples and pears, to sweetcorn and rhubarb.

“We’re trying here to help connect people to the outside world and to nature,” said Longshaw lead ranger Rachel Bennett. “Some of these children may not usually get the opportunity to go outside and do things like this. We need people to appreciate nature to protect it.”