The landscape and culture of allotments: a study in Hornchurch, Essex

The landscape and culture of allotments: a study in Hornchurch, Essex

By Emma Bonny School of Geography University of Nottingham 2010

With thanks to http://www.rushgreenallotments.co.uk/gallery.html

With thanks to http://www.rushgreenallotments.co.uk/gallery.html

Abstract

Allotments gardens are deeply embedded within our national landscape, and are firmly rooted in British cultural heritage. In exploring the landscape and culture of allotments, this dissertation aims to examine the ways in which the allotment is valued, negotiated and experienced by plot- holders, and addresses a subject which has traditionally been marginalised in academia and the wider political realm. Working within the organisational structure of allotment provision at a regional level, my research is located in the London Borough of Havering, and focuses specifically upon the Hornchurch and District Allotments and Gardening Society. A questionnaire distributed to 160 allotment-holders and a series of informal interviews with plot- holders comprise the theoretical framework for exploring the landscape and culture of allotments. A further interview with Havering’s Open Space Development Co-Coordinator provides a synopsis of the Council’s views on allotment value. A layered and dynamic complexity is found to characterise the allotment, defying conventional stereotypes and understandings of landscape, and embodying an intrinsic culture based upon shared conditions, activities and passions. The ideas, inspirations and values embedded within the allotment resonate with a wider culture that reinvigorates the importance of allotments in contemporary life. Yet the tensions inherent in allotment life render it less an idyll, but a space in which to negotiate relations with nature, self and others. In a dynamic encounter with space, the ways in which plot-holder cultivate their land becomes an expression of self, and the infinitely varied allotment plots produce a culture with its own distinct landscape that is continuously reworked and remade. As a richly rewarding field of study, the allotment accentuates the importance for cultural geographers of exploring vernacular landscapes. Further study could explore the differing response of London Boroughs and allotment activists to the current renaissance in interest in allotment gardening.  For full text click here: Bonny_2010

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