Philip Larkin once described the pastoral element of the country as “Going Going”. He said: “As the bleak high risers come, we can always escape in the car”. The idea of having to drive away from the city to experience the full extent of the pastoral is anything but natural. Giving up the opportunity of owning a garden for that breath taking view of the city skyline may seem like an easy decision, however, the losses may seem greater than first thought. Developments within Leeds are ensuring that the gap between nature and city living is beginning to be bridged.
Whether you are looking to relieve the stress of work by removing yourself from a frantic atmosphere or simply get some light exercise, then allotment gardening may be able to fill the nature shaped hole in your life. Saxton apartments situated in Leeds city centre provide the opportunity to live in a green environment centrally in the city. The development is complete with six and a half acres of outdoor space along with 97 allotments in the grounds surrounding the apartments. The project provides a good mixture of convenient inner city living with the potential to indulge in such past times as growing fruit and vegetables – something of which is not widely available to people living within the city centre.
Leeds District Gardeners Federation are an organisation who aim to promote allotment culture throughout Leeds as well as nationally. Member of the LDGF, Phil Gomersal, has been involved with allotment gardening for almost twenty three years and knows better than most the rewards of the pastime. Speaking about the benefits of allotment gardening Mr Gomersal said: “there is no pressure involved which is great for relieving stress. Through allotment gardening there is a strong sense of going back to basics; you can find real pleasure in watching things grow naturally.” Regarding people living in Leeds city centre taking up gardening, Mr Gomersal believes it should be encouraged, however there are certain obstacles in the way. “These days more and more houses are being crammed into one area meaning gardens are one of the things that have to be sacrificed.” Appreciation of nature and encouragement to get involved with allotment gardening is something Mr Gomersal feels should be taught at school level to ensure the possibility of a greener and more sustainable city.
Across Leeds there are over 100 allotment sights. On average waiting lists for a plot can be up to six months after applying yet waiting lists for a plot can vary dependent on the popularity of that particular site.
A simple allotment to someone living in the city may be just the escape Larkin was hinting at; a chance to leave the stresses of the city behind and begin to rekindle a relationship with nature.
Originally published in City Zen vol 01 – Dec 2015