St Albans allotments holders sceptical of River Ver plans

PUBLISHED: 08:00 22 March 2018

An allotment in Cottonmill. Picture: Danny Loo

An allotment in Cottonmill. Picture: Danny Loo

Danny Loo Photography 2018

Allotments holders say they are sceptical of proposals to repurpose their plots into a wetland nature reserve as part of the River Ver plans.

There are 120 plots at the Cottonmill allotment site, which St Albans district council (SADC) says are sometimes flooded by the adjacent River Ver.

Under the new Rivitalise the RiVer project, proposed by SADC, the Environment Agency (EA), Affinity Water, and Herts county council’s countryside management services, the River Ver will be repositioned back to its natural route and surrounded by wetlands. This route cuts straight through existing allotment plots, which will have to move.

No one renting a plot will lose it, but everyone will have to shift - either a short distance to the side of the river, or to an entirely different site.

Chairman of the Cottonmill and Nunnery Allotment Association, Keith Reynolds, has been maintaining his allotment for around 30 years: “It is long overdue that they finally get themselves together to sort out the river and in particular the lakes, but I am a little sceptical of why they think we want to create wetlands when we have some across the road.”

He also challenges the assertion that the plots flood frequently and that less water will be pumped from the river when 15,000 new houses are built around the district: “Your allotment is your piece of allotment, you become attached to the wildlife around it and your neighbours and it is not easy to up sticks and move.”

SADC is currently in talks with allotment holders to find the best solution.

EA project manager, Nancy Baume, said: “We will keep as many allotments as we can on this site and we will provide another allotment site locally so there is no loss of allotments overall, but we need to have that conversation with the allotment tenants to actually work out what they want, what the most important factors are for them, so they can help shape this.”

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I should probably have taken the hint! Walking out into the garden recently an unprecedented flock of thirty or more crows raucously greeted me from the treetops at the bottom of my garden. Cawing and croaking these big, black birds clung clumsily to the top most branches and twigs, jostling and flapping to stay balanced in a constant flurry of feathers. There is always something ominous about crows – they are after all carrion crows, the vultures of the bird world – always watching for scraps and weakness that might mean their next meal.

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