"FOR me, the allotment group is a part of my weekly routine. In my life I did not know that I could enjoy gardening until I came here.”

Nadia came to Bradford as an asylum seeker, and has joined a gardening group set up especially for refugees.

“I joined almost three years ago and have a good relationship with all my friends there," she says. "It’s a good space where I can get fresh air and work through all my negative energy. We dig, plant, chat and sometimes share food. I would like to thank all the volunteers who work hard to keep this project going and all people who support it.”

The refugee allotment group meet at Scotchman Road Allotments. It is run by dedicated volunteers, who also run a women’s group.

Volunteer Maria Crowley says: "For me the allotment is a place where friends meet. We share gardening skills and experiences. We encourage each other and offer support to those who need it.

"The commitment of the group is always inspiring.”It makes it all worthwhile to hear comments such as ‘this helps me clear my head’ ‘I feel valued when I can make a contribution’, and ‘I enjoy the fresh fruit and vegetables.’”

Across the Bradford district allotments continue to be popular. Between December and March more than 74 plots were let, with 58 new tenants this year alone. A large overgrown area has been cleared creating nine new plots at Bowling Park and more will soon be available at the Bullroyd site off Allerton Road.

The groups refugee and women’s groups were previously run by the former Bradford Community Environment Project (BCEP). After BCEP lost funding and had to close, local resident Mollie Somerville and Maria formed a joint charity to keep the groups from folding.

Says Mollie: “Last week there were eight of us at the allotment and we were all busy. We no longer have the specialist expertise we had when BCEP ran the group but we do our best to recognise the weeds and help each other.”

Says volunteer Christine: "I have tremendous respect for all the people I have met through the refugee group. Some have lost family in their home countries and suffered persecution and torture. They have left behind so much, yet they are some of the most generous people I know - what little they have they are willing to share and many of them volunteer on other community projects.

“I hope the allotment sessions continue - they offer a safe, calm and productive space for these people who have been though a lot.”

This year the two groups received small grants from The Ark charity. “We are very grateful for these,” says volunteer Christine Edmunds. “We have had a few tools donated to us by very kind people, but need more. We also need to buy things like compost and seeds. Both groups are used to growing from seed - it’s a good learning experience and cheaper than buying plants. For the refugee group, we want to be able to pay bus fares to enable people to get to the site - the people in this group have a very limited income. And there are the site fees too."

Christine pays tribute to BCEP’s Jane Robinson, who established the women’s group. “Her commitment made it so enduring.”

Groups to help people living with mental health issues are also popular across the district, says Bradford Council's allotments officer Janette Goodinson. "A new NHS group has just started at Undercliffe."

The majority of sites have waiting lists, however Bowling Park, Bullroyd, Cecil Avenue, Chapel Lane and Derby Road hve plots available. "Site representatives are happy to show people around,” says Jeanette.

Areas such as Saltaire, Thackley, Esholt and Little London in Rawdon are very popular. “However some of the inner city sites are starting to fill up as well,” adds Jeanette.

“Allotments are always popular with families and groups - lots of people bring their children. A number of the sites have open days and plant sale days which encourage people to get together.”

She adds: “They offer healthy fresh food, fresh air, exercise and relaxation with friends and like-minded people. They encourage community spirit.

“People are rediscovering the space and relaxation allotments provide, as well as the fresh food and exercise.”

The women's group plans to expand to two adjacent plots, growing more fruit and vegetables for people to cook and eat.

Adds asylum seeker Qamer: "It is stress-relieving and gives me hope for a better tomorrow.”

*For more information or to join the waiting list contact allotments@bradford.co.uk