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Offenders bring allotment to life

PUBLISHED: 09:23 05 December 2009 | UPDATED: 15:50 03 July 2010

A PREVIOUSLY neglected allotment site is slowly being brought back into use by a group of former offenders.

Gardeners will once again be growing their own at the plots in Sidegate Road after being overgrown with weeds and strewn with rubbish for years.

A PREVIOUSLY neglected allotment site is slowly being brought back into use by a group of former offenders.

Gardeners will once again be growing their own at the plots in Sidegate Road after being overgrown with weeds and strewn with rubbish for years.

The Runham Vauxhall site has been largely disused for more than two decades, with just a few allotments being kept in use amid the advancing undergrowth. Now the brambles are being beaten back by the team of offenders, bringing a clutch of rickety old sheds to the light of day.

The site, nestling beneath the A47, was a messy eyesore, but will be producing crops of lovingly tended fruit and vegetables next year. The allotments on the 1.5 acre site are being restored as part of the Probation Service's Community Payback scheme.

After having a surplus of plots for many years the Great Yarmouth and Gorleston Allotment Association now has a waiting list on many of its sites.

General secretary Tony Pitchford said: “I heard about the scheme through the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners and suggested the idea to our committee.

“Some were a bit dubious at first, but it has been a great success. All those involved seem very keen and it has given them a certain amount of satisfaction.

“It ticks all the boxes as it is of benefit to the community, making a visible difference and not putting anyone out of work.

“The popularity of allotments has really increased recently - with the grow your own movement in fashion and TV chefs promoting locally produced food.”

Community Payback is designed to allow local communities to have an opportunity to influence the type of work offenders carry out.

Previously allotments at Bradwell have been restored and Beighton Village Hall is being redecorated as part of the scheme.

Offender supervisor Natalie Rumble said: “When we first came here you could not see over the brambles. We work in all weathers and don't stop for rain or snow - all we need is some tea and petrol for the tools to keep us going.”

There are almost 1,000 allotments in the Yarmouth area covering 62 acres and 14 different sites.

Jean Bates, who has just taken over an allotment at Runham Vauxhall, said: “It will be good having the rest of the site back in use and I am going to set up a plant and seed share for all the gardeners.”

Anyone interested in renting an allotment should call Tony Pitchford on 07780 757466 or Arthur Fisk on 01493 658750.

To find out more about Community Payback or suggest a project in

the Yarmouth area visit www.norfolkprobation.org.uk.

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