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The call of the wild

It’s probably true to say there’s nothing quite like tending an allotment for staying fit, saving money and improving your physical and mental health.

 Research has shown that just one session of allotment gardening can result in significant improvements in both self-esteem and mood, via reductions in tension, depression, anger, and confusion – findings which the National Allotment Society, which champions the nation’s 300,000 plus allotment holders, can more than attest to.

 “People get so much from their allotments,” says Diane Appleyard, who supports the Society’s team of volunteers.

 “Some go for the tranquillity, others for socialising, some to keep fit and healthy – and of course there is all the delicious free fruit and vegetables, too.”

 The National Allotment Society has been around since the early 20th Century when it was established as an Industrial and Providential Society. A co-operative organisation, it is managed by its members (a representative from each of 11 regions sits on the board) and supported by a nationwide team of volunteers.

 The organisation provides support and advice to allotment holders and associations, as well as local councils, landowners and schools. It also runs National Allotments Week every August.

 “Legal advice is quite an important part of the service,” says Diane. “Many sites are ‘devolved management’ – which means the council or landowner still owns the land but is not responsible for its management or upkeep.

 “Groups running allotment sites need to know their rights and responsibilities, and what resources they can access to improve and manage their sites. We help them with this information.”

 The society’s Mentor and Regional Representative volunteer team supports around 115,000 members, advising on everything from how to become a devolved managed site to how to go about getting toilets installed, making them more accessible to wider sections of the community.

 The volunteer team all work remotely and use 0845 numbers provided by The Phone Co-op for official business.

 “Our volunteers use their own phones and mobiles and having 0845 numbers means they don’t have to provide their personal number for Society business,” adds Diane. “It works really well for everyone.”

 The Society has been a customer of The Phone Co-op since taking the volunteers from the Allotments Regeneration Initiative into the fold a few years ago. It is also a member of the NCVO, which has recently appointed The Phone Co-op as a Trusted Supplier.