The Ridings Centre in Wakefield has put plans in motion to expand its new rooftop allotments, as the scheme has proved to be hugely successful in its first month since opening.
Initially comprising of fifteen individual plots, almost thirty plots have now been snapped up by green-fingered local people and the centre is planning to expand the scheme even further into the car park area.
As part of its commitment to environmental sustainability and reducing the carbon footprint of the shopping centre, the allotments were opened for local residents who don’t have gardens of their own. The scheme, which is a partnership between The Ridings Centre and volunteer-led food initiative Incredible Edible Wakefield, was recently visited by Wakefield MP Mary Creagh.
Kitty Rees is a volunteer with Incredible Edible and helps with a number of gardening schemes in Wakefield. She comments, “We are so pleased at the take up of allotments so far; there’s been such a wide range of people of different ages and abilities attending the club that we host on a Tuesday. I’m a true believer in the positive effects gardening can have on a person’s mental health and wellbeing, so it’s brilliant that we have been able to be part of this wonderful scheme which reaches out to the local community and tackles loneliness, in the heart of the city centre.”
The idea for the allotment came on the back of the shopping centre’s success with its award-winning Cuppa Club initiative, which aims to combat loneliness. In association with Age UK, around 175 elderly people meet once a month at the centre to enjoy food, drink and entertainment. The Cuppa Club has been such a success that it is now being rolled out across all 35 New River shopping centres throughout the country.
Carrol Carrington and Claire Smith both live in flats in Wakefield city centre and neither has have access to a garden. Both women are new to gardening and didn’t want to take on the challenge of a large allotment, so the smaller patches at The Ridings Centre have proven to be perfect for them. “I’m really enjoying being able to come down to the centre and meet new people,” says Carrol. “It’s so important to be able to enjoy the fresh air; many people take up gardening or walk the dog, but living in a flat restricts me from both of those hobbies. Tending to the allotment means I’m learning a new skill, getting out of the house and making new friends”.
Claire, who has been using her patch to grow fresh produce including basil, beetroot and runner beans, adds, “I first heard about the allotments in the local paper and thought it sounded like a great opportunity to have my own little patch of land. Now I’m down here nearly every day tending to my crops – I love it!”
Lee Appleton, centre manager of The Ridings Centre comments “It’s important to us that we’re not just a shopping centre, but also a place where local people can meet, seek advice and find a friendly face. The community initiatives we’ve put in place here are going from strength to strength; the Cuppa Club is being rolled out across all NewRiver shopping centres and enquiries for the rooftop allotments are coming in thick and fast every day. In the future, we hope that the allotments will become a regular feature of the centre and that we can continue to develop our community offering.”