You might easily be fooled by the Reigate and Banstead website, which attests that no new leases can be taken up on the Maple Road, Earlswood allotments, and by the relative quiet of the surrounding area. But the vegetable growers and land workers of Earlswood, Redhill have been just as active in recent months as they ever have been. The allotments are, in many ways, an escape from the crushing restrictions of the pandemic, a place where self-sufficiency isn’t a pipedream of a bygone era but a present reality.
Wearing a mask, I approached the area during early evening. The allotments weren’t as crowded as they are in the middle of the day, but they were far from empty. These patches of ground were still being tilled and worked despite the crisis, and there was a sense of hushed calm to the place.
One resident, out with her daughter, described watching the vegetables grow as “therapeutic.” She stated that the Covid-19 pandemic had done little to get in the way of growing these vegetables. Indeed, the well-plotted land is almost made for social distancing, everything ordered and separated in a way which never enforces unwanted close contact.
The allotments, which ask for a £50 deposit, and charge £90 for a full plot and £45 for half, are a key feature of the Earlswood area. Surrounded by harsh concrete, they offer up a piece of rugged land that contrasts heavily with the suburban hodgepodge around it. Providing people who don’t have space in their own gardens with an opportunity to “live off the land,” they’re a great way to escape from the pressures of lockdown. The allotments have been around for over 100 years, providing many generations with the ability to experience a way of life that may have otherwise been difficult for them to manage (short of moving to a farm).
One resident, a software engineer from India, was there with his son at the beginning of his tenancy, a mere two days in. He said that he’d started working on his allotment because “I don’t want my son to just see food as coming from Sainsburys. My forefathers worked on the land and lived off the land, and I want to teach my son to know what that’s like and have the skills to do it.”