London Borough of Hillingdon
(Comments by the Judges Coordinator Cavin Higgins, with photographs from the top plot in 2013).
Fellow Allotmenteers, I have been an allotment plot holder for over 15 years but cannot recall knowing about a competition to identify the top 50 plot holders in the Borough of Hillingdon when I first started.
In the 1990's plots were readily available and I took on a second plot next to mine, as I was fed up being next to a weed infested plot. Nowadays many Hillingdon sites have a waiting list of people who are desirous to be an allotmenteer, and as a result I gave up my second plot and sensibly concentrated my efforts on my original plot. I know what I like and grow what I like!
It was about ten years ago that I realised there was a competition when I became a site secretary for a short duration. Now the question on my mind was, why was I not in the top 50? What was judged, what was the criteria to qualify?
All was revealed by Alan Ellingham, who in conjunction with newly appointed Borough Allotments Officer, Nick Porter, managed and organised the judges and judging process. Alan invited me to a judges meeting on his site and I quickly realised why I was never in the top 50. His personal plot was a super example of allotmenteering, and indeed he obviously inspired a great many other plot holders on the site, it was just a well managed haven.
In my first years involvement with judging I observed teams of judges and visited many sites, which was very educational. Alan Ellingham and Marianne Slater, both being RHS judges taught me a great deal for which I will always be thankful.
For the past three years I have been coordinating the judges and judging process and have met many plot holders who still ask what competition?
Well here goes!
The London Borough of Hillingdon sponsors the Annual Allotment Competition to identify the Top 50 plots and reward the Top 3 plot holders with trophies and gardening vouchers. The Top sites are also awarded trophies.
Sites/Plots are judged in mid June by a voluntary team of judges who are also plot holders. All sites are visited. No judges are scheduled to judge sites where their plots are situated.
The Criteria for judging plots is available from site secretaries and also on the HAHF website. www.hahf.org.uk This website is informative and up-dated regularly. Check out the Top 50 plots in 2017, and download the judging criteria
I can also highly recommend the Allotments Location web page, which is informative, pinpointing allotment sites and their achievements.
Judges, being allotment holders themselves, appreciate growing conditions can be difficult and changeable year on year. Whilst some plots are very well maintained, with good variety, some need just a little extra TLC given natures ability to grow things in the wrong places. Sadly there are still plots which are badly neglected, which reflect on the site and can dispirit neighbouring plot holders.
On a personal note, when visiting sites to judge, I am warmly welcomed. From time to time a small number of plot holders say they are not concerned if their plot is not judged, when actually their plot is good and warrants judging. All plots are observed and will be judged if worthy.
It greatly assists judges if all plot numbers are clearly displayed, that is an easy 5 points. This seemingly simple point will minimise judge stress. Check out the Judging Criteria.
Allotment judging is not really stressful; why not contact me if you would like to get involved. I will explain the time required and try to answer any queries you have, and let you know how to grow singing pumpkins!
I am conscious that I have maybe rambled on too much, suffice it to say I really hope I can get into a top 50 position one day. I need to straighten my edges a little more and grow a greater variety of produce and label properly (my seed packets on canes blow away), I know what they are but forget actual variety name.
I cannot wait to dig up my first spuds, a taste unlike anything you buy in the shops. My favourite being Foremost.
Keep Calm and Carry on Weeding and Harvesting...............look forward to joining you in the Top 50.
Links to other Competition webpages