GRAHAM Reay loves to take his granddaughters to his allotment

“I have four granddaughters, aged from four to nine - they really enjoy going,” he says. “I show them how to grow things - this year we are growing sweetcorn among other vegetables.

“They live in London and last year they planted pumpkins, after looking up how to grow them on WhatsApp. They took them home for Halloween.”

Retired health and safety consultant Graham has tended a plot at Woodside Road Allotments in Silsden for 11 years and is secretary for the site.

“We don’t have a big garden but we used to grow blackcurrants, gooseberries and apples in it - my wife Anne makes a lot of jam. But I felt I needed more space so we got the allotment. It was in a real mess when we started.”

Now Graham grows a wide variety of produce, including tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, beans, rhubarb and peas. “We eat our own vegetables and fruit most days,” he says.

“I have grown all sorts. This year I grew Chinese rhubarb, a really big plant. I started growing it at home in the front garden, from seed, then took it to the allotment.”

Graham’s plot has a polytunnel and a hut to retreat to when it rains.

“I find it very relaxing. I love the peace in the evenings, and sometimes go first thing in the morning. The site has a lovely aspect, looking over the valley and up towards the moors.”

The tenants run the 40-plot site themselves as Woodside Road Allotments Association, chipping in to help if problems occur. “It is a friendly site, with There are people of all ages, and we swap things we have grown,” says Graham.

Members of the association also give talks on allotments and visit local primary schools who have created their own allotments in which to grow food.

At present there are around 20 people on the waiting list at the site.

Ann Ashe has tended a plot at Northcliffe Allotments in Shipley for 15 years growing a vast range of produce including potatoes, onions, carrots, leeks, lettuce, radish, beetroot, cucumbers, gooseberries, strawberries, pears and plums.

“I garden with my son Ian. We eat fresh when in season, freeze what is suitable for freezing and give some produce away to friends and family. We make lots of jam to share and to donate to church for coffee mornings.

“We have also been known to make sloe gin, plum brandy, raspberry vodka and blackberry whisky. This year tried we rhubarb gin.”

Ann suffers from arthritis and asthma, and feels that gardening helps. “Both are well controlled but I feel that the exercise and fresh air are definite benefits.”

She adds: “When I am at the allotment, the peace and quiet is relaxing and mentally beneficial. When young relatives visit the children are always excited and keen to know what is growing and love to dig up potatoes and pick fruit.”

Across Bradford allotments continue to be popular and although numbers vary from one site to the next, waiting lists are growing, says Jeanette Goodinson, allotments officer with Bradford Council. “All our sites have waiting lists.”

She adds: “Lots of families bring their children. A number of the sites have open days and plant sales which encourage people to get together.

“Our allotment competition, which is open to all our plot holders, now has categories for children to enter - the biggest sunflower, best scarecrow, best mini garden and best container.”

Andrew Cunningham tends an allotment near his home in Clayton. He took it on a decade ago “completely by accident.”

“My daughter Amy asked for an allotment to grow her own vegetables when she was at primary school,” he says. “One became available and when she discovered the state it was in she was overwhelmed. I agreed to help her sort it out, but she became fed up quite quickly at the amount of back-breaking work to get it into a condition to be able to grow anything. She gave up and I carried on - the rest is history.”

He grows vegetables, roses and dahlias, both to eat at home and to exhibit at local and national shows as far away as London.

“I believe having an allotment benefits the mind and soul. It helps me to relax and unwind after work,” he says. “You meet new friends and obtain new ways and ideas of doing things, sharing experience and knowledge. I take a large flask of coffee and biscuits and can be gone all day.

“It can benefit families enormously. Most families have busy working lives and children do not get the opportunity to get outside as much as I did when I was a child. An allotment can bring them all together out in the fresh air, while keeping fit and learning where food comes from, not just the supermarket.

Andrew is chairman of the West Yorkshire District Association of the National Vegetable Society (NVS). “I became involved through listening to BBC Radio Leeds’ Sunday Gardening show, which was presented by Tim Crowther and the late Joe Maiden.

“I joined the committee about four years ago and was elected chairman of the West Yorkshire District Association in December 2018.”

In Bradford allotments are very popular with community groups, ranging from schools - which can link allotments to the National Curriculum - to women’s groups, and health groups, in particular mental health.

“What better way is there for building communities, than by encouraging people out of isolation into the company of like-minded, friendly people?” says Jeanette. “The good community spirit of an allotment site brings people together, promoting both exercise and relaxation, eating healthy fresh food, enjoying fresh air, all with new friends to break down barriers.

“An increasing number of people want to know where their food has come from and how it has been grown, especially those with young families. People are also rediscovering the space and relaxation allotments provide, with fresh food and exercise which comes as standard with having a plot.”

She adds: “There are still lots of people interested in growing their own food just for the simple pleasure of it, although the rising costs of food have made it even more of a necessity for some to be able to supplement the dinner table with something fresh from the plot.

“Ultimately, gardening is a simple but very rewarding pastime - you don’t need to be a genius, it is something anyone can do, whatever your age or abilities.

“It’s not the end of the world if something goes wrong, you just try another way next time.”

An online system means people can apply for an allotment through Bradford Council and check their progress at a time that best suits them, rather than having to work around office hours.

In recent years the Council has handed over more community responsibility for allotment management. Many sites are now under parish council control and managing their own waiting lists.

These include Bingley, Haworth, Keighley, Ilkley, Burley in Wharfedale, Silsden, Thornton and Baildon.

“They not linked to our waiting lists so people interested in these sites will need to contact their own parish or town council to be added to their own respective lists,” says Jeanette.

For more information on Bradford Council-run allotments visit