Although allotments will always be mainly used for growing food, they have other values that are now gaining greater recognition. They are great places for healthy exercise, provide good opportunities for socialising, and put us back in touch with the earth. We all, ultimately, depend on the soil for our foods but in this highly processed, pre-packaged age the connection is often forgotten. Allotments are also an increasingly important resource for wildlife. Many of the plants and animals that struggle to survive on intensively managed farmland find a refuge on allotment sites. This page could help you enhance the conservation value of your allotment, while continuing to cultivate it for fruit and vegetables.
There is no law forbidding the keeping of animals on allotments. In the past pigs or goats or other animals were kept, as well as pigeons. Permission from the Council or landlord is required, and conditions must be clean, safe and not cause a nuisance.
For bees as well as getting an agreement you need to join the British Beekeepers Association. BBKA gives advice and support, even school packs, and arranges the essential insurance cover which offers up to £5 million surety against public and product liability. Most beekeepers are amateurs. Many more are needed to help in the conservation of bees.
The Plight of the Bee
Bees are under threat like never before, with their numbers declining. There is strong evidence that neonicotinoids – a class of pesticide first used in agriculture in the mid 1990s at exactly the time when mass bee disappearances started occurring – are involved in the deaths. Another major factor is intensive agriculture – monoculture’s and the widespread use of pesticide and herbicide contribute to a loss of habitat and food for bees. Organic farming, by contrast, encourages higher levels of wildlife – including bees – on organic farms.
Keep Britain buzzing: ways you can help
The Soil Association has been working to highlight these problems and protect bees for several years. Our Keep Britain Buzzing campaign aims to highlight the threats bees face and encourages us all to take action to protect bees. We want the Government to ban neonicotinoids, and promote better farming to help ensure the health and future of our bees. You can get involved and take action today:
Support our Keep Britain Buzzing campaign. Support our work and protect bees by donating to our campaign today and we’ll send you a campaign badge and free packet of bee-friendly organic phacelia seeds so you can create a haven for bees in your own garden
Buy organic food. Organic farmers don’t use neonicitinoid pesticides. They also have more complex crop rotations, which means that there is a greater diversity of plants for bees to forage on. Supporting organic farmers at the checkout is an everyday action with a big impact
Don’t use neonicotinoid pesticides. These pesticides appear in a range of common garden products, available in many major retailers. Avoid them and urge your local retailer to stop stocking them.
Use organic techniques in your own garden. Garden pesticides also have the potential to do damage to bees, and good rotations give an extra diversity of flowering crops. Use a wide variety of plants in your garden, and don’t be too tidy. Leave wild flowering plants in place, and ivy is a particularly important source of late season winter food for bees. Find out more about organic growing techniques.
Take up beekeeping. If you’ve got the space, then keeping your own colony of bees is a great way of boosting bee numbers. There are some excellent courses available in our Practical courses section. Find out more about beekeeping courses.
Albert Einstein once said: “If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plant reproduction, … no more food” He wasn’t an entomologist, but entomologists around today agree that the sudden and mysterious disappearance of bees from their hives poses extremely serious problems!
KEEP IT ORGANIC!
COMMON WILDLIFE MISCONCEPTIONS
The People’s Trust for Endangered Species [PTES] said misconceptions over the apparent booming population of foxes across the country are harming the perception of a species that “are easily shooed away”. Added to that, commonly held myths that you are never more than six feet from a rat, that bats fly into your hair and that grey squirrels are responsible for the decline of red squirrels are equally as unfounded. “Giant foxes are apparently ‘mugging’ people of their groceries in dark alleyways,” said PTES chief executive Jill Nelson. “Grey squirrels are eating all the birds’ eggs and rats are apparently jumping at our throats. “Squirrels (grey and red) do occasionally eat eggs and fledglings, but not that many. And rats jump to escape not to attack. Contrast this with over 5,000 annual hospital admissions resulting from people being attacked by dogs. Or the annual toll of about 50 million birds killed by domestic cats.” So what are the most common misconceptions surrounding animals? Let’s take a look at debunked myths featured in this year’s PTES ‘Living with Mammals’ report:
Myth1 – The number of foxes is increasing
Fox populations are stable in the long-term. Mange has had a big impact in many areas and populations are slow to recover. Numbers in Bristol five years ago were only a fifth of those in 1994, before an outbreak of mange. ‘Living with Mammals’ found that numbers in urban areas nationally have changed little in the last decade. The pre-breeding (adult) population in urban areas is estimated at about 35,000; within the M25 there are fewer than 10,000.
Myth2 – You are never more than six feet from a rat
There are fewer than 10 million brown rats in Britain. In 2007, the English House Condition Survey found that rats occupied four of every thousand urban properties and were present in the gardens of just 3%.
Myth3 – Inhaling rat droppings or coming into contact with their urine can be fatal
Rats are fastidiously clean unless overcrowded, spending a considerable proportion of their time grooming themselves and others. They do carry some human diseases, particularly leptospirosis, but the risk of infection is low and is smaller from urban rats than those in rural areas.
Myth4 – Bats damage buildings
Bats rarely cause any damage to buildings: Unlike birds, they don’t bring in nesting materials and, unlike rodents, they won’t gnaw electric cables or wood. Their droppings carry no disease and are generally odourless. Large colonies of pipistrelles can number several hundred individuals in summer and can be noisy tenants, but so important are buildings to bats that managing and renovating them appropriately is a big part of bat conservation.
Myth5 – Grey squirrels are responsible for the decline of red squirrels
While grey squirrels have a competitive advantage over reds and have displaced them from much of England, red squirrel numbers declined drastically between 1900 and 1925, before grey squirrels had become established. In southern Scotland and Ireland, red squirrels were extinct by the 18th century due to deforestation and habitat loss – those there today are a result of reintroductions. In England, red squirrels were viewed as a pest and almost wiped out.
Controlling grey squirrels in areas where reds occur today is necessary if populations of reds are going to be preserved, but elsewhere grey squirrels are simply part of the natural ecology and our mammal fauna.
Source: The People’s Trust for Endangered Species [PTES]
Hens on Allotments in the UK
Hens are allowed on all council owned allotments in England and Wales. The Allotment Act 1950 includes the allowance of certain forms of livestock (hens and rabbits) to be kept although this can be, in some cases, restricted by local by-laws.
A council may have local rules to specify that no livestock or hens are allowed. It can be disheartening to be at logger heads with a local council but you do not need to ask for permission to keep hens on an allotment – it is an entitlement and part of what allotments are all about.
Sometimes councils believe they have the right to tell allotmenteers what to do just because they are the council. Not true. Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 makes a council’s ability to impose arbitrary rules unfair and hence unenforceable.
Hens can be kept on all Council owned allotments as a right. Cockerels are not allowed by the Allotment Act.
Each allotment association may have it’s own set of rules or guidelines for keeping chickens, ducks etc. These are the rules for MTBAA: ( to be posted shortly)