Covid: How have allotments helped people during the pandemic?

During the coronavirus pandemic, waiting lists for an allotment have swelled. The BBC visited one site to find out what these small patches of land mean to those who cultivate them.

Hidden at the end of an easily-missed grass and gravel track, you might never know the Lexden allotments in Colchester existed.

Take the turning, however, and a vast oasis of lovingly tended soil awaits.

There are more than 100 plots here and the diversity of the allotmenteers reflects the richness and variety of the vegetables, fruits and flowers they grow.

For plot-holders during the pandemic, these allotments have delivered health, company and fresh food to sustain them both physically and mentally.

Former soldier Lazarus Kaunda, 40, arrived in the UK from Malawi in 2003.

As a young boy, his mother tried desperately to instil a passion in him for horticulture by cultivating the fields near their home.

She failed. And yet...

"At the time I didn't like it," he says. "But when I am here, alone, the only way I can express that I miss her is by having an allotment.

"Being here takes me back, to Africa and those days. I didn't like it then, but I like it now.

"I bring my kids here and we send pictures back to Africa to show them my little allotment.

"For me, it is also a place for peace and quiet, to digest the decisions - the good decisions and the bad decisions that I have made - and to love the nature, by seeing plants growing."

Allotments in numbers

  • 330,000 Estimated number of allotments across the UK

  • 65% of councils have between 100 and 400 people on their waiting list

  • 20% of councils have more than 1,000 people on their waiting lists. This is up from 8% in 2019.

Source: Association for Public Service Excellence

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