1 Binswood (Ex-Servicemen) Allotment Society
Annual Report in lieu of a General Meeting April 2020
Members of the Binswood Allotment Society will not assemble this spring at the Community Hut to hold our traditional Annual General Meeting. All gatherings at this time are prohibited, due to the coronavirus pandemic that has necessitated unprecedented restrictions on all of our movements. As it is unclear when these restrictions may be lifted, the Committee has decided to provide a summary of the activities carried out in 2019 to the membership via a written report instead.
• Minutes of last year’s AGM and notes from Committee meetings are available online on our website: www.binswoodallotmentsociety.co.uk.
• A financial overview of the Society’s accounts is included in this report. If you
would like to see a copy of the annual accounts, you may do so on request.
• Any comments in response, please email the Society’s secretary, Tristan
2 Chair’s Report – Kristen Gasser Lawrence
This would have been our Society’s 99th Annual General Meeting. Instead of our yearly gathering, however, we must report to the membership via email – a first in our almost hundred years’ history. Below is a summary of the activities that the Society undertook last year in 2019 and some information about our plans for the year ahead. Overview of 2019 Activities
1. Site maintenance
• The Society continued to clear plots in order to be able to re-let them. Historic asbestos was removed safely.
• Volunteers, singly and in working parties, cleaned, mended and tended the Community Hut and its environs, collected and disposed of rubbish across the site, serviced the irrigation system as necessary, maintained our equipment, cut hedges and strimmed/mowed paths.
• A large conifer came down and was cleared and removed by a tree surgeon.
• Gates at our two main entrances were installed and upgraded; more details in the Grant section below.
2. Grant from the Town Council
Each year we bid for a grant from the Leamington Town Council, which redistributes the rents from four allotment societies within North Leamington as grant funds. • The grant for last year totaled £1,500 and this was spent on installing the new 1.8 metre mesh gate at the entrance to our site accessed from Northumberland Road and a new metal pedestrian gate (adjacent to the wider wooden gates) at our Borrowdale Drive entrance. The Society purchased a new lock for this gate to complete the project. Both are working well and have improved the site’s security.
• Grant funds for 2020 have been requested and approved by the Council last autumn. This year we have £1248 in funding to hire two skips, to replace missing boundary fencing and hedging in our northwest corner, and to equip the Community Hut with four lightweight, foldable tables. Additional funding has been used to purchase rolls of permeable membrane fabric for each Council-managed allotment society; we have been given 10 rolls, some of which we will use to cover vacant plots when necessary and some we will offer for plot-holders’ use in future.
• All members were sent a copy of a new Members’ Handbook last year, which, along with the Society’s bye-laws, provides plot holders with key guidance and helpful information. This document is presented to every new member who joins the Society and will be periodically updated. If you are interested in a pdf copy, you may request one by emailing the Committee at the above address.
• To comply with new GDPR legislation, the Society adopted and is adhering to the regulations set out in our new Data Privacy Notice (see
• Committee changes: Jo Stone has resigned from the Committee because of
work and family commitments. Her contributions were significant (see the GDPR statement, for instance) and luckily for us, she is continuing to use her legal expertise to assist us as necessary. We are very pleased to welcome on to the Committee Mark Fairbairn. You may have met him, as he is a key member of the Equipment Hire and Plot letting volunteer groups.
• The Community Hut continued to play an important role in the social life of the Society in 2019 as the meeting place for members to gather on a monthly basis for an excellent programme of events, always accompanied by tea and cake! Organisors Alison Cathcart and Paula Barraclough-Fox worked with members of the Community Hut working party to present a series of events, including a winter pruning workshop in February led by Ryton master gardeners, Pilates on the Plot, the Plant and Seed Swap, a tea and scones fundraiser for Myton Hospice, the summer barbecue, autumn apple pressing, a forum on organic gardening, and the annual Christmas cheer. Unfortunately, events scheduled for the next several months have necessarily been cancelled, however when we are free to resume, do join your fellow plot-holders at one of these friendly events.
• The Committee regretfully decided to withdraw our membership in the National Association of Allotments and Leisure Gardeners (NSALG) as they required us to provide the names and contact details of all of our
membership, which would not adhere to our Data Protection Policy and be administratively onerous. The tangible benefit we received from this membership was a discount on orders placed with Kings Seeds. We are still eligible for a different discount going forward, however this change resulted in a confused and frustrating order process in 2019, for which we apologise. We will endeavour to make this year’s process smoother for all involved, not least the seed secretary!
• A highlight of 2019 was the Allotment Art Trail event that was held over several weekends in May. Proposed and organised by artist and plot
holder Karen Stephenson, the Art Trail brought together artists and allotmenteers to transform the allotments temporarily into one big
outdoor art gallery. As a member of a local artists’ collective, Karen, with co-organiser Tammy Woodlow, curated a unique outdoor exhibition of artwork created for and in response to our gardens. Allotment members and visitors enjoyed following the trail to discover sculptures, intriguing installations, decorative displays and more. The artists provided drinks and refreshments during the tours and raised over £40 for future Community Hut programming.
• The Society continues to work to build resilience into our organisation by getting more members involved in supporting key activities. Equipment Hire, Plot Letting and Community Hut groups are currently overseen by coordinators who collaborate with small teams of volunteers to provide our important services. Please refer to the Members’ Handbook for more information on what they do and how to offer to help out.
4. Initiatives for the Year Ahead
• The Committee will be working on the creation of a strategic plan for the Society, focusing on issues that will impact our site going forward into the future and how we might address them. Some of the issues identified include: access, drainage, maintenance plans, security, and ecological sustainability.
• We have plans to improve the state of the access lane from Northumberland Road and hope to undertake this project later in the year as a joint project with the New Milverton Allotments. Any such improvements will unfortunately not be a permanent fix but should improve the road appreciably in the shorter-term.
• 2020 marks the centenary of the Binswood Allotment Society. A planning meeting was held earlier this year to discuss with interested members ideas for celebrating this milestone. Here are a few of the projects underway: Historian Sarah Penny and Alex McCormack are researching the Society’s past through archived materials. Please get in touch if you have documentation such as photos or artifacts from our past years. Interviews with long-time members, a survey of our current membership,
a cookbook compilation of plot holders’ recipes, and other ideas for marking where we’ve been, who we are now, and where we might go in future are in process. A party is planned to commemorate our birthday in September at the Community Hut. Get in touch if you’d like to be a part of the planning.
• And this brings us to our major project of this year – the replacement of the existing Community Hut with a new and improved structure that will see us well into our next century. Having received landlord approval and with planning permission pending, the Society is planning to erect a new timber-framed structure that is insulated and water (and bird!) tight this autumn. The Committee will pay for the structure using funds from our savings. We anticipate an outlay of approximately £8,000 for demolition, fabrication off site and construction.
5. Shuttleworth Cup Competition
• Each year the Society holds a friendly competition for our members, named in honour of a longtime member: John Shuttleworth. This past year’s challenge was best allotment scarecrow. We had fabulous entries (see our website) and this year’s judge – Mayor Bill Gifford – had difficult decisions to make. In the
children’s category the winners were Issie Warren, Izzy Stephens, and Esme Colagiovanni & Caitlin Loman. The Shuttleworth Cup was awarded to David Tennant for his marvellous scarecrow creation. This year the cup, normally presented at the AGM, will be given to David at a later date.
• 2020’s Shuttleworth Cup competition is tied to the Society’s big birthday. This year’s friendly contest will be focused on growing traditional vegetables that were popular on allotments 100 years ago. The challenge is to produce a basket of traditional, heirloom veg varieties: an assortment including summer cabbage, carrots and runner beans. Special prize to the “best dressed” entrant in a period costume harkening back to the decade of the Society’s birth – the 1920s.
It’s easy to come up to the allotments and work on our own plots and not really take into account the infrastructure that makes this possible. I’d like to take this opportunity to recognise the many volunteers who do so much work on the allotments. A sincere thank you to:
• all who give their time and their skill to maintaining our site, including Pete Griffin, Maurice Atkins, Dave Elliot, David Wright, Paul Burtonshaw, Robin Cathcart, Martin Hurst, and Mark Fairbairn.
• the Community Hut working party: Alison Cathcart, Paula Barrowclough- Fox, Liz Phillips, Bonny Landsborough, Dinah Peacock, Anne Strange, Sheila Buckingham, Gemma Wilkins, Helen Tudge, Julie Bradley, Liz Robson, Maggie Heavey, Meg Van Rooyen, Sue Hallett, Sarah Stuart Baker, Susan Rasmussen, Catherine Levack, Ian Litton, Irene Cox, Jo Stone, Tom Hudson, et al!
• those who were involved in making the Art Trail a success and Karen Stephenson for working to make the vision a reality.
• Members of the Equipment Hire and Plot Letting Volunteer Groups, including Alex McCormack, Mark Fairbairn, Alex & Georgie Haldane, Nick & Sonya Bond, and Pete Griffin.
• Bonny Landsborough for her diligent work coordinating the Seed Scheme.
• Rosemary Beal for designing and maintaining our wildlife/butterfly garden.
• Pete Griffin for organising the manure delivery.
• Tristan Stephens for managing the website.
• Catherine Levack for keeping our Facebook presence.
• the Committee members for their hard work and support: Robin Cathcart, Tristan Stephens, Martin Hurst, Jo Stone, Meg van Rooyen and Mark Fairbairn.
7. AOB – Some Key Reminders
• As we enter the growing season, please remember that it is each plot-holder’s responsibility to keep paths clear around plot boundaries, to not put up any fences or hedging, and to keep their plots in good shape. Also – please adhere strictly to the new distancing and hygiene protocols put in place in response to the risks posed by Covid-19 for as long as these are applicable.
• Please do not leave ANY items for recycling on the tables near the Borrowdale Drive entrance or at the Community Hut. Do not bring anything to the allotment that you will not be using immediately on your plots. Recently chairs, glass panes and other unwanted items have been deposited in these locations. As no one takes them, they become a problem and the Society has to spend time and money disposing of what is now rubbish. PLEASE DO NOT USE THE ALLOTMENTS AS A DUMPING GROUND FOR UNWANTED MATERIALS.
• Again, do not place rubbish or any unwanted items in the bunkers near the Community Hut. They are for deliveries and for targeted usage only.
• You must seek the Committee’s permission before erecting large or permanent structures such as sheds, summer houses and poly tunnels.
• We plan to arrange for a volunteer working party to clear the drainage ditch this year. Please find ways that you can volunteer a bit of your time to support the
Society. As always, if you have a specific skill or interest that you can share, or if you are interested in serving on the Committee or with a volunteer working
group, please let us know. Thank you!
8 Treasurer’s Report – Martin Hurst -Not on Website, available on request to members
9 Membership Secretary’s Report 2020 – Tristan Stephens Binswoodallotmentmembership@gmail.com
1. Thanks to the plot letting volunteer group, and Pete Griffin and Mark Fairbairn in particular, who have taken care of the plot allocations on the ground again this year.
2. There have been a phenomenal 1347 membership emails sent and received this year, more than double last year. This highlights how important email is for members. It is especially important to contact me regarding change of email address during the year.
3. There were nine plot changes (new members and existing members changing plots).
4. Currently – early April 2020 – one vacant half plot remains following 2019/2020.
5. If anyone is going to leave the Society for whatever reason, such as moving away from the area, please let us know so we can pass on the plot quickly before it gets
overgrown and remove your data from the database.