Down to Earth Allotments

Our Down to Earth project helps build communities and connect people to nature through volunteering programmes on our allotments where they learn to develop new skills.

What we do

Our Down to Earth Allotment programme is based in inner city Chelmsford where we run six plots, opening them up to a range of community groups and schools.

Most of our volunteers are living with mental or physical disability, and we also use the allotment to engage recovery clients from Open Road (Drugs & Alcohol charity), MENCAP, New Hall School and Columbus School & College who cater for young people with complex and severe learning difficulties.

Currently all of the food grown at the allotments is shared amongst volunteers as they learn about food production and sustainability. We also engage people with the subjects of nutrition and cooking and any surplus is donated to Sanctus, a charity that helps feed the homeless and vulnerable people in the local area. Click here for an insight into life on the allotments.

We also host allotment open days several times a year to engage with the local community and encourage more people to volunteer with us. Our next open day will be 24th July.

The difference we make

Participation in the local food programme provides residents with an improved sense of community, gives a sense of belonging and inclusion, educates residents about the benefits of healthy living and healthy eating and can improve mood, confidence and self-esteem.

Participants report improved motivation, the development of teamwork skills, a greater awareness of others in need and the opportunity to participate and achieve in a safe environment.

The scheme directly contributes to community health and wellbeing through the provision of organic food grown on site with surplus produce donated to the local food bank, spreading the benefit of the project even further.

Physical activity like digging and weeding contributes to improved physical health, while workshops and activities such as food preparation and cooking help participants to improve their skills and acquire new knowledge.

The Programme

The allotments are a peaceful and rewarding way to build community spirit and connection with land, food and nature. We are also recipients of the #IWill fund this year which will provide additional volunteering opportunities for 10-11 year olds.

Participants:

  • Grow a range of food crops in the outdoor beds;
  • Grow fruit and tomatoes in the all-weather poly-tunnels we have erected on site;
  • Plant, weed and maintain the plots;
  • Participate in workshops to encourage skills development and healthier lifestyles;
  • Socialise during lunch and refreshment breaks;

The scheme is open to all and has been designed to be as inclusive as possible, through the provision of raised beds that the elderly and infirm can tend, as well as wheelchair accessible vegetable containers that salad crops can be grown in.

We would also welcome visitors to our allotments to experience for themselves some of the wonderful young adults finding their nature connection there.

Michael’s Story

Michael volunteers at the allotment site on a regular basis and thoroughly enjoys his time on site each week.

He travels some distance to get to the project, but always arrives with plenty of energy and enthusiasm and ready to get to work.

He had particularly enjoyed creating our wildlife pond area, which encourages frogs and amphibians into the area which are a great natural method of pest control for our organic crops.

Michael tells us in his own words why he enjoys being a part of the Local Food Programme and encourages everyone to “Give it a go!”

“Thank you to everyone in the Wilderness Foundation team, in particular Jonathan, for working with our NHVS Wilderness students this term. They have thoroughly enjoyed their time at the allotments and are very keen to return in March.”

Co-ordinator, New Hall Volunteer Service

How you can help

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