Wells and Pumps Introduction
London's oldest surviving allotment is facing the threat of being built on thanks to plans by its landlord to construct a new housing development on part of the allotment site.
We desperately need to raise funds to pay for legal and specialist advice to help save our much loved allotments.
If you can spare just a few pound we would be very grateful for your help and support.
In early September 2016 the charity, Pathways, contacted plotholders at Northfield Allotments in Ealing to announce its proposal to build on 10% of the allotments. The development would include a five to six story block of social housing and four houses for sale to help fund the development.
Northfield Allotments are the oldest allotments in London. They were given by the Bishop of London to the people of Ealing in 1832, and are held as a permanent endowment. The charity Pathways is our landlord and the site is managed by a committee of seven plotholders. There are 141 plots.
The plotholders are a diverse range of ages and nationalities. Twenty nine of our plotholders live in flats – this is their only garden. We have around 50 children who have a safe place to play and learn about fruit and veg and get a chance to see tadpoles, stag beetles, bats and hedgehogs.
There are more than 25 pensioners who have a place to grow their own food and there is always company, someone to talk to. You are never alone when you have an allotment. People are friendly here and we share seedlings and produce.
We have counted 27 different nationalities – the only qualification to getting a plot is a love of gardening and the patience to wait on our waiting list (currently 72 people).
The hedgerow around the site is around 900m long and has been designated, by Ealing Borough council, a SINC - Site of Interest for Nature Conservation. It is an important and safe habitat for our hedgehogs, many nesting birds and insects. The allotments are a habitat for stag beetles, which are endangered and protected. With perfect timing the many visitors to our Halloween open day saw our bats flying around the site catching night flying insects.
On the 25th September at a special general meeting, the plotholders unanimously voted to oppose Pathways’ plans to concrete over the allotments.
We understand that social housing is important – but so are green open spaces. It shouldn’t have to be a choice of one or the other. We believe Pathways’ trustees have not fully considered alternatives to their proposal to ‘temporarily’ move 18 residents into what will be a permanent development on the allotments.
We believe a permanent endowment should be permanent.
The original allotments were much larger than they are today: 60% of the allotments were lost in the 1970s due to compulsory purchase by the council and building by Pathways. Our concern is that if planning permission is granted this time around it will be easier to lose more allotment land in the future as the pressure for housing so close to a Crossrail station increases.
When we lose green space we never get it back.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
- Please write to your local councillors to let them know what you think of the proposal.
- Write to the Ealing Gazette and Ealing and Northfield forums.
- Sign up for our newsletter to keep up to date with what is going on.
- We need specialist help, especially once the plans are submitted to Ealing Council. This will cost money. So, please help by donating whatever you can to our fighting fund.
Please help us protect the allotments for another 184 years.
Many thanks for all your help and support.
The Ealing Dean Allotment Society.
I’m going to leave the final word to Fran, one of our plotholders (who will lose her plot if the development goes ahead)…
“My allotment means a lot to me - we live in a third floor social housing flat with no access to a garden of our own. In 18 months my daughter and I have transformed the plot from weeds and brambles to our own little patch of heaven and my daughter has learned so much she never would have been able to before, from where our food comes from to the lifecycle of the frog - and she now wants to be a gardener when she grows up.”
There are at present (March 2015), 12 known sites of wells on the Northfields Allotments. The current wells appear to have been created after WW2. I have been told in Nov. 2016 by "David" a gentleman who was born in 1954 and lived in model cottages in the 1960's that he knew of two wells in the early 1960's one in the south end and one in the north end. The well on plot 198 was built in 1976 by "Barney" who lives in Loveday Road, in a recent coversation he told me that there was Soft rush growing in this spot and he knew that this plant prefers wet conditions which was the reson he built the well in the area, he said he dug the well in three steps and put air bricks in the bottom and lower sides to allow water into flow into the well. The well on plot 229 was built by a plot holder who started his tenancy in 1946. Other wells have a internal construction of metal barrels and these barrels are still intact in most cases. It is possible that there were wells before these current wells or some were adapted from earlier wells but we have no fact of this at this moment.
Water sources in early years of the allotment
The information we have about water sources in the early years of the allotments are that:
- There were two ponds on the allotment. One at the top of the current site and one at the bottom of the current site.
- There is a water courses mention in the Tenancy agreement in 1844.
- There were known ditches running down both side of what is now Northfield Avenue which were fed via the large pond where St. John's Church now stands.
Mr R. W. Weal was the tenant of plot 229 from 1946 until 1993 when his son Dennis Weal took over the plot. In the decades after WW2 a number of plot holders built their own wells as there was no mains water on the allotment until around 1995. Mr R Weal dug his well which is constructed of metal water tanks placed on top of each other with the bottom cut out.
He also installed a K4 Semi-Rotary pump to extract the water. His son Dennis told Christina Fox that they constructed a shed around the pump to stop people using it as the handle was broken by people using it. If you would like to see the shed it is now rebuilt in original design on plot 198.
In 2015 i started a project endorsed by the Ealing Dean Allotment Committee to instal four pumps into existing wells on the Northfields Allotments. The pumps are for all plot holders to use, therefore it was necessary to have the agreement of the plot holder to allow people to use the pump and that it was preferably in a location that was easy for plot holders to use. The four plots that were chosen were 155A, 161B, 164 and 213. Plot 155A is a plot in the south part of the allotment. It has a well that has been created with circular barrels placed on top of each other. The well top has been capped with a man hole cover as other well have been.
This is the third pump to be installed as a part of the allotment pump project. On plot 213 we chose a village style pump installed as a part of the project. The pump is now working and can be used by any plot holder as a water source. All water pumps need a brisk pumping action, a weak pushing of the handle will not be enough to maintain a good water flow.
This pump does not always need priming, i would recommend trying the pump first and if it feels very light then there is no water in the cylinder and therefore you will need to follow the priming process.
Allotment Pump Project Plot 161B
The reason why we have installed a semi rotary pump in this well is due to the wishes of the plot holder "Sim" to keep the metal frame that sits over the well. I thought i was a good idea and believed that a rotary or semi rotary pump is likely to have been used previously when the well was in use. Semi rotary pumps have been found in two other instances on the allotment, on plot 229 and 224 which gives us an understanding that they were used by some plot holders, these two pumps are in fact the only existing "old" pumps to be found on the allotment.
Installation work on this pump started in April 2105.The first thing i did was remove the very heavy concrete slab on top of the plot. It was then that i discovered that the well was half full of rubbish. The image right show the top of the well with the metal barrel construction damaged or bend over on purpose. Once i looked down into the well i could see a roll of carpet, soil and plastic flower pots. I have a very long pole with a hook and cup on either end.