Great “turn up” for Rural Connect Allotment Day!

SRUC Oatridge Campus allotments proved a great draw to the people of West Lothian who turned out in their droves to explore these gardens and the wonderful fruit and vegetables they produce.

The event, organised by Rural Connect and the Horticulture Department, aimed to inspire locals to start growing their own food as well as encouraging more children to take up gardening, and of course, to get more children and adults alike eating vegetables part of their five a day.

In Scotland, eating habits are the second major cause, after smoking, of poor health, and allotments are considered an excellent way of improving people’s diets, as well as increasing their level of exercise.

Derek McKay, Scotland’s Minister for Local Government and Planning, says in the new Scotland’s Allotment Site Design Guide: “Allotments and community growing spaces are often at the very heart of our communities and we recognise the range of benefits that they can bring.”

Visitors to Oatridge’s allotments were encouraged to pick the produce which included potatoes, sweet corn, peas, beans, giant onions, kale and lettuce and then take it home to use in their family meals. As they got stuck in the visitors asked questions about growing, harvesting and cooking.

Indeed, there was plenty of practical advice throughout the day with cooking demonstrations from Liam MacDonough and Dee Dewar from Sodexo. They whipped up some delicious pumpkin soup, potato and sweet corn fritters and pasta and pumpkin with herbs. The chefs also spoke about the importance of healthy eating and were enthusiastic about growing your own saying it can lead to a healthier lifestyle.

A programme of specialist gardening talks ran throughout the day. There were question and answer sessions with SRUC Oatridge Horticulture tutors, Ann Burns and George Gilchrist, as well as a talk from Kevin O ‘Kane from Fife Council on the Edible and Tasty Spaces (EATS) project.

Also on hand was a representative from Polbeth and West Calder Community Garden, Mel McEwan from the Linlithgow allotments (LADAS), and Mark Thirgood from new Killendeen allotments. All three of these experienced allotmenteers discussed their individual projects as well as giving advice and tips for others who were thinking of starting a community growing group.

SRUC Horticulture Lecturer, Ann Burns, said, “Our NC Horticulture students planted out the allotment as part of their course programme and they would have been proud to see their efforts rewarded with over 140 people attending the event. The best thing was they all seemed incredibly enthusiastic about growing their own food, and trying to incorporate more fruit and veg into their cooking.”

Bernice Keegan, Project Worker from Rural Connect, commented: ‘It was lovely to have so many people coming into the allotments, asking questions about the produce and enquiring as to how they could start becoming more involved in gardening. It was also great to see so many children involved, it really struck home about the importance of teaching our children where our food comes from, passing on our knowledge to the next generation.”

Rural Connect is a community project which aims to connect the people of West Lothian to their local, rural environment. It is funded by LEADER, Lottery Heritage and Scotland’s Rural College For more information on their work visit

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