With great pleasure I am able to report that GFAA has been successful in its application for Green Flag status. Our on-site assessment was completed by an external evaluator in late September and the Assessment Report arrived with us last week.
It has been quite a journey. We applied in early January (a 70 plus page application and Management Plan was required) and our Assessment Visit was scheduled for May. The various COVID-19 Lockdowns put paid to that possibility, of course and it was only in recent weeks that the visit was possible. COVID also robbed us of the support of the Momentum Skills team who were due work on site bi-weekly, but in the end were not able to come at all. As a consequence all of the work fell back on our Volunteer Squad, individual plotters and Community Sunday attendees. A huge thank you goes to all who sought out ways to help with our site developments and maintenance over the summer. Our success was built on your hard work.
We joined the Green Flag scheme because we hoped it would challenge us to improve the management and running of our site – making it a better green space for our plotters, volunteers and visitors. Our external Evaluation Report suggests we have been successful in this, but that work remains to be done. Here are some highlights from the report:
Our Plan and Site: The 10-year Management Plan follows the Green Flag criteria assessment framework in structure the content. It sets out the current status, recommendations and includes appendices which summarise the 10-year management and maintenance schedule as well as ACC Health & Safety policy.
There is reasonable vehicular access into the park, but limited options to improve due to the mature tree lined street. Safe parking and little movement of vehicles through the site. Pedestrian access using the same access. Meeting place close to the entrance with seating. The site is sign posted on nearby roads. Site is sheltered and has fencing around most of the site with replacements planned. Good surfacing and access throughout.
Health, safety and Security: First aid provision located at 2 bases within the allotment sites. Risk assessment undertaken twice a year and prior to events. ACC Arboriculture services manage trees. H&S in line with ACC. Sheltered and enclosed site with low incidence of vandalism. Busy well used site and friendly atmosphere gives a sense of community and with that a safe and secure place.
Litter, Cleanliness, Vandalism: The Management Plan indicates that litter is separated for recycling. Measured response to reporting/ tackling graffiti and vandalism. Well used site limited vandalism. No litter. Fences around the site slowly being replaced and to the same specifications. Facilities are being improved and were clean and well maintained. Volunteers actively collecting branches and material.
Environmental Management: The Management Plan mentions not using horticultural peat and minimising/justifying use of pesticides, collecting rainwater from buildings and encouraging use locally grown plants. Autumn leaf collections are stored and turned into leaf mould on site for mulch/compost. Composting encouraged on site. No use of herbicide was noted during the visit. Use of peat is limited.
Biodiversity, Landscape and Heritage: Management Plan recognises the historical background to the allotment site. Allotments have been established here since 1956 and has a long history of food and flower growing, It is a place defined by landscape features of the old farming estate with large mature trees and a wealth of biodiversity and habitat. Beehives have been allowed on site. GFAA are actively engaged in seeking advice for improving diversity.
Community Involvement: Management Plan outlines role of GFAA in the day to day management of the site as well as their extensive network of collaboration with schools, University and other community projects and their achievements in national/local awards. The allotments are well run and have managed to diversify the site adding additional areas for growing for sections of the community and raising money. The City Council appear to be assisting where required but the site can manage and function with little assistance. There is a good working relationship between GFAA and the council.
Marketing and Communication: GFAA has excellent website and social media presence and is actively engaged in promotional activities/national awards.
Partnership working with the Council’s communications team to target different audiences. GFAA have an excellent web page and social media presence. Good advert for Aberdeen and it’s horticultural background.
Overall Management: At present the site is managed and maintained by volunteers who constitute the GFAA Committee, the Volunteer Squad and allotment holders through Community Sunday activities to provide a well maintained, clean, safe and welcoming environment for visitors and allotment holders. The partnership between GFAA and the City Council appears to be working well. The City are supportive while letting GFAA manage and run the site with real positive changes over the last number of years. GFAA encourage all plot holders to take part, very community orientated.
Additional Comments and Opportunities for Development
There is a need to clarify what are the different responsibilities of ACC and GFAA in the maintenance management schedule.
GFFA/ACC should have regular meetings and schedule an annual review.
Continue to pursue the funding for the rear fencing and hedgerow planting.
Some of the recommendations in the Management Plan are not replicated in the maintenance management schedule for monitoring and review.
There should be a comprehensive list of actions.
No budget is identified for any activity.
No proposed public events are planned to engage with the wider community e.g. open days.
An annual bonfire is useful. It may be worth exploring other green ways of reusing green waste on site before being burnt.
There will be an opportunity for plotters and volunteers to discuss the report and its recommendations during our up-coming General Meeting (November 14 11.00 via Zoom). The Committee look forward to ideas and suggestions for further developments on site. If you have ideas, but cannot attend the meeting, please do pass them to a member of the Committee.
I want to end on a thank you to all who helped make this exercise a success. The application took place against the most difficult of backgrounds. So many people helped in so many ways, small and large, it is not possible to name them all. It was so encouraging to have so many plotters step up to the plate and help. I would like to mention especially however, Alan Findlay, Pat Wilson and Stephen Bly from Aberdeen City Council for their help, support and encouragement throughout the process. A special mention too, must go to our Volunteer Squad: without your efforts over the months leading up to our assessment visit we would never have reached the required standard.
So, what’s next for Garthdee Field Allotments?