ONE of Kelso’s longest-running sagas finally comes to an official end today when Kelso allotment holders sign a 10-year lease for two acres of ground on the outskirts of the town.
The agreement between the Kelso Allotment Society and Roxburghe Estates is to be signed in a ceremony at the town house this morning.
Roxburghe Estates are leasing part of a field near the racecourse to the society with enough space for 40 plots and the possibility of expansion.
The campaign to find replacement plots has been on-going for a number of years after the 20 joint owners of the town’s former Abbotsford Grove allotments sold the 2.5 acre site to a developer five years ago.
A survey and a public meeting last year found 40 people wanting plots.
After an approach by Provost Fiona Scott, the duke offered to fence off and lease two acres, part of the field known as Cauldriggs on the edge of Kelso, to the society for 10 years.
The land is reckoned to be some of the best on the Floors Home Farm, with productive, deep soil, that should provide ideal growing conditions.
Society secretary Jimmy Fleming praised the interest shown by the duke and Roxburghe Estates and their help in finding a solution.
He said negotiations with a private developer over possible new allotments had fallen through and that nothing had come of several years of negotiations with Scottish Borders Council.
“But the duke has come up trumps. Although the lease was still to be formally signed, we asked estates factor Roddy Jackson if we could allocate plots and he said that was OK, so we had a meeting on Friday night at the rugby club and there was a bit of a gold rush with over 40 people attending.
“There were young people, the middle-aged and the more elderly and those who were allocated allotments were straight up there at the weekend digging in their tatties and fruit trees.”
The society has drawn up a reserve list in case more space becomes available or someone drops out and gives up their site.
Mr Fleming says the hope is that, after the field surrounding the allotment site is harvested, lottery funding can be applied for to construct a car park.
He said: “The field that surrounds the allotments has a crop growing in it at the moment, so until that is harvested we are hoping we might be able to use the facilities at Kelso Racecourse and are talking to people there.”
Mr Fleming says the interest in allotments has never been higher. “People like to know where the food they put in their mouths and their children’s mouths has come from. They go to weekend markets and buy fresh local produce and enjoy it so much and see the health benefits it has.
“Lots of the people interested in our allotments have had plants before and two or three have moved from the countryside to the town and miss having some ground to grow things on.
At the time of the offer of land for lease, Mr Jackson said the duke had been delighted to be able to assist the community in the provision of allotments for Kelso.
“With the increasing interest in grow-your-own and a strong demand for allotments for residents, the duke was very keen to try to help when he became aware of the lack of any suitable land within the town itself,” said Mr Jackson.