Allotments are now a world away from the flat cap and whippet image that they have suffered from in the past. Renting one is not only an inexpensive way of getting your hands on valuable gardening space but it's also a great opportunity to meet fellow gardeners and a relaxing, sociable way to garden.
Finding an allotment
The majority of councils and local authorities have a department which deals with the allocation of allotments. A quick call to them is usually the best place to start. There may also be privately-run sites in your area. Your local library may have details.
Allotments cost anything from £6 to £50 per year for a plot of about 9m by 6m (30ft by 20ft). Most also have concessionary rates for older or disadvantaged people. Many also have rates for the unemployed.
It's best to visit the prospective sites before signing on the dotted line and renting an allotment. Check out the facilities on offer, such as an on-site shop, parking, toilets and running water. Have a chat with any plot holders you meet to find out what it's like there. Unfortunately some sites suffer from vandalism and it's worth finding out what the risk is like in advance.
An increasing number of local authorities have websites, many of which give information on allotments. The following website lists the local authorities that have sites:
The Tagish index of local government websites
Your best bet is to search via the A to Z index where available.
Other ways to seek out allotments near you
Try the Allotment Ring: http://q.webring.com/hub?ring=allotmentring
Or send an email to the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners (NSALG): firstname.lastname@example.org
There is also a great deal of other information on the web. Many allotment societies have their own websites. There are also a number of organisations with a broader remit.
The sites below are just a small selection. The smaller the organisation, the greater the likelihood of information being out of date unfortunately, but a brief email usually leads to a speedy response.
The National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners
The national representative body for allotment holders and vegetable growers in the UK. The society covers mainly England and Wales but has increasing membership from Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is worth a visit whether you are looking for an allotment, or even if you already have one, and is packed with useful information for allotment gardeners.
The Wavendon Allotment and Garden Society
One key aim of the society is to monitor the state of allotment sites throughout the UK. Many organisations oversee council-run allotments, but there are also many privately-run allotments.
It hosts sites for other allotment societies, a seed swap database and a small advertisements section.
Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society
The society exists to inform and enthuse about allotment gardening in Scotland and the website is designed to become a one-stop site for all aspects of allotment life, with information on gardening practices, media clips and a directory of members. SAGS is still in its early stages.
Cambridge Allotments Network
Includes a list of all allotment societies in the Cambridge area and links to several other allotment associations around the country. There is also a calendar of events (though a little out of date the last time we looked).
Allotment and Kitchen Gardens
A tie-in with the London borough of Barnet, but has links to dozens of other allotment associations around Britain.