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People flock to allotments to escape coronavirus lockdown

PUBLISHED: 14:42 26 March 2020 | UPDATED: 08:38 27 March 2020

People are escaping to allotments to escape coronavirus lockdown. Robin Strafford on his Dereham allotment. Picture: Matthew Usher

People are escaping to allotments to escape coronavirus lockdown. Robin Strafford on his Dereham allotment. Picture: Matthew Usher

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2015

The prospect of spending hours in coronavirus lockdown with glorious sunshine outdoors has seen people flock to allotments.

Those with allotment plots across Norfolk have been taking the opportunity to escape the house to plant, weed, sow and pick produce to take it home and avoid a trip to the supermarket.

Strict curbs on life in the UK to tackle the spread of coronavirus mean people may only leave home for a handful of reasons, including to exercise once a day.

Prime minister Boris Johnson named walking, cycling, and running as examples of acceptable outdoor exercise, but said while parks were still open, congregational areas such as playgrounds, sports courts, and outdoor gyms would be closed.

Allotments next to Dereham Road in Norwich. Extra precautions are being put in place over coronavirus. Picture: Ian BurtAllotments next to Dereham Road in Norwich. Extra precautions are being put in place over coronavirus. Picture: Ian Burt

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The government later confirmed that tending to your allotment also counts as exercising - a message met with relief in Norfolk.

Kerry Turner, secretary of Norwich Allotment Association, said: “We’re pleased to say the allotments in Norwich are open. We were all quite worried initially, as they are a really valuable resource, not just for food, but for health and wellbeing too. We were delighted to learn we would still be able to use them.

People are escaping to allotments to escape coronavirus lockdown. Allotment holder Angie Stray watering her plants in Hunstanton in 2018. Picture: Ian BurtPeople are escaping to allotments to escape coronavirus lockdown. Allotment holder Angie Stray watering her plants in Hunstanton in 2018. Picture: Ian Burt

“They are providing a valuable escape from the stress and anxiety as well as a chance to produce food safely and without adding to supermarket pressure as restrictions continue.

Jane Dykes, secretary of Dereham and District Allotment and Gardeners Society, said: “At this particular time with restrictions on our movements and reasons for going out being limited to exercise and for improved mental health, it is not surprising that those who have allotments are in the very rare and fortunate position of being able to ‘keep calm and carry on’.”

To protect the people enjoying their limited time outdoors, allotments have introduced extra measures.

People are escaping to allotments to escape coronavirus lockdown. Mick Smith working on his allotment in Hunstanton. Picture: Ian BurtPeople are escaping to allotments to escape coronavirus lockdown. Mick Smith working on his allotment in Hunstanton. Picture: Ian Burt

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Great Yarmouth and Gorleston Allotments Association said its members had been “strongly advised” to wear gloves to avoid the large number of people using gates from passing on the virus.

Hunstanton allotment holders are being told they can exercise at the site, but must stay on their own plot, socially distance and not share tools, equipment and sundries like seeds and plants.

Ms Turner said: “It’s easy to social distance on allotments, with a few basic precautions. Communal facilities have had to be temporarily closed of course. So far all the users have been acting incredibly responsibly.”

Cabinet minister Michael Gove previously said: “I think it’s perfectly sensible for people to go to an allotment.

“It’s in the very nature of allotments that there’s a safe distance between people who are working on an individual allotment.”

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