Field Trip: Community Gardens in York, England

If there’s one thing the English do well, it’s gardening. Many of our traditions and ideals about what a proper garden should look like come from the English. As a resident of a drought-stricken area, I’ve had to peel these ideals away from my brain over the years, to embrace a different aesthetic. Now and again, though, it’s nice to see a lush garden where it rains more than 9 inches a year.

During our stay in York recently, we had the good fortune to stay in a guest room that overlooked a community garden. In fact, all the houses on this particular street abutted a huge community allotment, as they are called. Our host and her delightfully adorable dog, Peanut, took us on a walk through the garden one morning.

Peanut gives us a tour of the Scarcroft Allotment Scheme.

Peanut gives us a tour of the Scarcroft Allotment Scheme.

York in July

It’s always interesting to see what grows when in other parts of the country. York clearly gets plenty of rain to keep the grass growing among the cultivated plants. It lends itself to a more wild look than the typical manicured gardens you’d expect to see in England.

The allotments in this garden were huge, some at least 30′ x 30′. Jealousy increased as we plodded through pathways of rambling vines.

The view every neighbor has of this community garden.

The view every neighbor has of this community garden.

The garden is surrounded by “terraces,” connected homes similar to our Brownstones in New York. The land is dedicated to community plots that can not be developed.

They call them allotments. We particularly liked the sign about dog fouling. So civilized.

They call them allotments. We particularly liked the sign about dog fouling. So civilized.

Large plots with raised beds (or not), filled with berries, potatoes, marigolds and more.

Large plots with raised beds (or not), filled with berries, potatoes, marigolds, sweet peas, and more.

Some gardeners focused on growing only flowers while others interplanted with food crops.

Some gardeners focused on growing only flowers while others inter-planted with food crops.

Peanut was eager to get going, so we cut a brisk path through the garden. We intended to come back and take more pictures, but there was no time. Still, what we saw was glorious.

Large allotments had plenty of room for charming storage sheds and artichokes.

Large allotments had plenty of room for charming storage sheds, apple trees, and artichokes.

Their berries were just starting to set fruit while ours have just finished.

Some of their berries were just starting to set fruit while ours have just finished.

Brambles of black and raspberries lined pathways.

Brambles of raspberries lined pathways.

York Edible Gardens is a city-wide program to support growing food in public and private spaces.

York Edible Gardens is a city-wide program to support growing food in public and private spaces.

We saw several small gardens that were part of York’s Edible Gardens program while we traipsed around York. Across town we sat in the courtyard of a safe house for battered women that was filled with raised beds and abundant crops, all part of York’s Edible Gardens program. But back to the community garden…

Charming trellises sit against the wall and a neighbor's window opens to the garden.

Charming trellises sit against the wall and a neighbor’s window opens to the garden.

Glut Share is the name for our givesies-takesies areas. I guess we don't really have a name for that.

Glut Share is the name for their givesies-takesies areas. I guess we don’t really have a name for that.

Our home stay is on the other side of this wall. What a view!

Our home stay was on the other side of this wall. What a view!

It was nice to see gardens thriving with little effort somewhere else. We’ll be back to York some day to explore more community allotments.

The Scarcroft Allotment Scheme. Sounds fishy, doesn't it?

The Scarcroft Allotment Scheme. Sounds fishy, doesn’t it?

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2 Responses to Field Trip: Community Gardens in York, England

  1. David says:

    Looks like you had a good time. I’ve spent some time looking at allotments in the past, i’m english but live in SoCal, my sister has two in her home town. Its a lovely tradition, they often seem to take the slightly unkempt approach of the one you visited and only a few of them I’ve visted have been really highly manicured. I think its as much of a retreat for many people as anything. One strange thing about them is they are still measured in Rods, so I think the standard is either 10 rods or 20 rods but i think many are being subdivided now. I think 20 rods is around 100 sq metres which is quite a bit of land and was designed so that you could feed a family of four. All goes back to the enclosures of common land in the end of the middle ages and as a sop to the peasants and to enable them to have some land still in cities as industrialisation increased. A rod is supposedly related to the standard size of the stick you would carry to goad your team of oxen to carry on ploughing and as you can imagine dates back a while.

  2. Jo H says:

    We were in England this summer and spent lots of time at my mom’s allotment.
    So beautiful and very different to garden in SoCal!

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