AN allotment project that grows vegetables for its local foodbank has come up smelling of roses after securing cash to improve its community plot.

Lowhills Leisure Gardeners’ Association has been awarded £2,860 by County Durham Community Foundation to improve its set up for community groups and wheelchair users in particular.

The Association, which has plots on Lowhills Road, Peterlee, is run by local gardeners Peter Atchinson, Billy Robinson, Albert Cully and Billy Robson.

Community groups like Direct Steps, which works with adults who have learning disabilities, and Peterlee Scouts use the community allotment, as do local schools including Acre Rigg Juniors.

Mr Atchinson said: “We want to show children that carrots don’t come from the supermarket. Then they go home and want to grow things themselves.

"We have even had some young men take on their own allotment this year.”

The community grant was used to make higher raised beds using sleepers and to add quality topsoil free from foreign bodies so children who use the allotment stay safe.Nets to keep rabbits out of the vegetable patch were bought and hedgehog boxes were installed to encourage the hedgehog population for conservation reasons and as a means of organic pest control.

The project grows huge amounts of healthy produce for the local foodbank including cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, beans, onions and potatoes.

Mr Atchinson said: “The amount we produce has grown each year and this year we expect to help fill around 400 bags of food to East Durham Trust for the foodbank. Over the last year few years we have helped fill around 1,000 bags. No-one should go hungry – it’s disgraceful.”

Jackie Smith, managing partner of Direct Steps, said: “Our clients absolutely love to go to the allotment and contribute to their community. It’s been brilliant with Covid-19 that we’ve been able to get outside and give them the chance to achieve, grow in independence and get some physical exercise.

“Many people with learning disabilities also have health problems, and can’t do extreme exercise, but with the allotment they are doing something pleasant and active that really helps with their health.”

The grant comes as the contribution allotments make to health, community and sustainability is celebrated during National Allotments Week 2021 which runs from August 9 to 15.

Michelle Cooper, chief executive of County Durham Community Foundation, said: “With the support of our donors we make hundreds of ‘small’ grants like this each year: but it is always a joy to see what a huge impact they have.

“The team at Lowhills have found a way to bring people together to garden, and in doing so they have made an incredible contribution to our goal of Zero Hunger.”

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