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Funding creates new base to build on

A grant for nearly £4000 from IM Properties Mercia Park Community Fund is helping an allotment society secure new sheds for its thriving community of green-fingered members.

The Orchard  Allotment  Society in Donisthorpe has been in existence since the 1900s and attracts all ages from young families to people in their 80’s.

Set in a sunny, sheltered spot which is good for growing, the 21 allotments which currently have a waiting list have been a popular and welcome retreat during the lockdowns.

Allotment secretary Peter Gale said, “The existing sheds have been patched up and painted that many times they look a bit like a scene from Tobermory. The grant will enable us to replace them with eight new ones on a proper concrete pad.”

Mercia Park’s £350,000 Community Fund managed by Leicestershire and Rutland Community Foundation was set up by developer IM Properties to have a positive social value impact on the communities surrounding its 238-acre scheme on junction 11, M42.

Chris Richardson, who remembers both his grandfather and father having an allotment grows all his own vegetables for his family and friends.

“During the first lockdown I had to close the business and I would be down the allotment three or four times a week, helping out other members who were continuing to work.

“There’s a great camaraderie amongst all the growers and we work together, swapping seeds and plants, chatting and enjoying the company as much as the seeing the fruits of our labour.”

Another member, Linda Bull who used to work as a  nurse said she was at a bit of a loss when she retired, and the allotment provides a new focus.

“Myself and my friend now share and work across two plots so we can grow different fruit and veg. In the summer months, I’d be there every day and into the Autumn every other. For me personally it’s always been the social aspect of the allotment I’ve loved.”

Pete Gale added: “In normal times we’re very sociable and have several fundraising events from BBQ’s to fruit and veg sales which in the past has helped fund a shelter, tools and even the installation of a compostable toilet. This year it’s been more challenging and so the money from the Mercia Park Community Fund is very welcome and enables us to make plans for the spring.”

The Mercia Park grants of up to £5,000 are being primarily directed at projects which strengthen communities or improve the natural environment.

Kerry Amory who works on IM Properties’ Social Value programme said they were delighted to be supporting The Orchard Allotment Society and hoped they might get to sample some of the produce soon.

“It’s clear the allotments offer so much more to people than growing their own. They create happy memories for the members, their family and friends who share in the joy of being outdoors and the community get to benefit too.  I hear their pickled onions and piccalilli are much sought after at Christmas!.”

IM Properties is committed to delivering sustainable development across its business. Working in partnership with its occupiers and supply chain it aims to create jobs, skills and training opportunities, in addition to long-lasting social value benefits for the local community.

The next round of grants is now open for applications. For further information on the Mercia Park Community Fund visit https://www.llrcommunityfoundation.org.uk/apply-for-funds/mercia-park-community-fund-open/