Friday 27 March 2020

Can I Use My Car To Get To My Allotment?

As you regular readers of my blog know, I work from home as I’m a carer for my wife Jen who has lupus and has to use a ventilator each night in order to remove the C02 from her lungs as otherwise she poisons herself with her own breath.

18 months ago she was in hospital with pneumonia and recovery from that has been difficult leaving her with the most basic mobility. She can furniture surf on a good day, requires me to act as a human zimmer frame on bad days or has to remain in bed as she cannot stand without a great deal of pain and assistance. She can now lift her own leg over the threshold of the front door, and walk down to ramp to the car using me as a human zimmer frame. I need to lift her legs into the car as she is unable. When we do go out she uses a wheelchair or a mobility scooter as quite frankly pushing a wheelchair around hills etc. is a knackering job.

Effectively I have been in a form of isolation since December 2013 when I decided to start working for myself from home so that I could look after and keep an eye on my wife, that has become more intense and difficult as each year passes and her condition has worsened. These days I tend to get a half day on the plot at the weekend when my daughter can be around to keep an eye and be available, and if I’m luck. I can perhaps fit the odd hour in here and there, once I know my wife is settled and will not need me for a while.

Historically I have been on the allotment, only to receive a telephone call from her crying that she had fallen and then had to rush home in order to get her up and yes sometimes I have had to get help as you can’t lift a dead weight that is in pain on your own easily very easily.  

So my trips out of the house are few, I take on jobs locally and will arrange site visits at the best time to suit her current condition or when someone else can be around to keep an eye and assist her should she need it, and I keep trips out of doors as short as possible.

In November last year I posted about Gardening for Health and how Scientists have discovered that the mycobacterium found in soil can improve brain functions while boosting moods, and how I use the allotment as a way of destressing and to get me out of the house that tends to feel like a prison sometimes.

During the Coronaviris crisis, the UK Government is asking us to stay home to limit the spread of the Covid-19 virus. As a result I made the decision early on because of her health and mine as I’m also high risk but not as high as my good lady wife to self-isolate in order to shield her.  Trips to the allotment were not in question when I made my decision to self-isolate, decline work and not visit the allotment.

The conflict within me to do this and cut off my happy place that is cheaper than having therapy was immense but my love for my wife won me over, although I have to say it was a close thing (wicked smile as she may just read this, and I don’t want her getting too big headed).

On the 16th March 2020 Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave the first of daily news conference to outlining and update on the next steps in the UK's plan to fight coronavirus

The over-70s were been told they are allowed to go out for walks when their period of staying at home begins. The first person in Wales to die with Covid-19 brings the UK total to 36. Most of those who have died in the UK have been people over the age of 60 with underlying health conditions.

With each passing day the information and restrictions have tightened. The request to avoid social gatherings and to keep a social safe distance between each other has remained constant, and how you may ask has a large minority of the British public responded to this?

Largely as the rest of the world by massing at supermarkets and stripping in the first instance the shelves clear of toilet rolls, then rice and pasta and finally like a swarm of locust who are spreading the virus faster because they didn’t heed the warnings just wanting to binge shop because of the impending virus they were actually assisting to share and spread.

During the weekend of the 21st / 22nd March a high percentage of the population who because the weather turned sunny and warmish decided what a great weekend it would be to go to places like Richmond Park and Brighton and again ignore the warnings about  attending gatherings and social distancing, which forced Boris Johnsons hand.


On Monday 23rd march 2020 Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s address to the nation, he in everything but using the term "lockdown" started the process of lockdown and day by day we have seen businesses closed down and movement restricted etc.

The Allotmenteers of the nation there was hope in that we informed that working an allotment was allowed because it was viewed as a form of exercise. It’s also in the spirit of the Dig For Victory campaign used in WWII and having seen the shops stripped clean allotment holder who enjoy their own produce could see the advantage of grow your own. If they could not go to work they could isolate on their plots and actually spend more time on them than they would normally have.

There was however much debate on all the Facebook groups and other gardening forums about isolating on the plot and is it really allowed and a good idea? 

On Tuesday 24th March Chancellor Michael Gove clarified matters relating to ‘exercise’. He said people would be allowed to run, walk or go to an allotment, but that more social activities, such as playing golf, were not allowed. At the time we were still being told that although moving into lockdown although Boris Johnson never used that term in his address to the nation that we could still leave the house and visit our allotments as a form of exercise and to maintain mental well-being.

Northampton Borough Council closed all their allotments for the next three weeks, ordering that livestock can be tendered but only by non-vulnerable people!  Then later in the day they reversed their decision, I should imagine as allotment holders protested quoting Chancellor Michael Gove & DEFRA

With clarity that yes you could visit your allotment and work it from DEFRA & Michael Gove this made those that are physically fit and have no underlying medical conditions happy that they could whilst obeying the guidance of social distancing, at minimal risk go to their allotments if they followed the guidance.

Not everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet, County and Town police forces are implementing measures to control gatherings and movement to different degrees.

One police chief in south-west England admitted to the Guardian Newspaper that his force had made mistakes in setting up a roadblock, as constabularies across the UK attempted to convince people to stay at home with sunshine forecast for the first weekend of the lockdown.

Because of the road blocks, and instant fines and the fact that not all areas of the country were being policed in the same way there was then a flood of discussions about if one could use their car to get to the allotment on all the facebook groups and gardening forums.

Finally the NAS uploaded a statement

I checked the NAS web site tonight and there is no update or clarity on it Then Gardener’s World comes to the rescue  

Advice updated at 10am, Friday 27 March, 2020.
Visiting the allotment is essential for the physical and wellbeing of many of us.
We spoke to Doctor and Broadcaster Amir Khan, who said: “It’s still perfectly safe (and recommended) that you go out into your gardens and allotments for both the health of your mind and body.”

However, it’s important to adhere to strict social distancing rules while at the allotment and travelling to and from the allotment. We’ve come up with some guidelines to help keep you and others safe:

·        Avoid public transport if possible. Instead walk, run, cycle or drive to the allotment, either on your own or with one other member of your household.

·         Do not pick up anyone on the way and travel to the allotment with them. This is not allowed. If you bump into someone on the way then maintain safe social distancing protocols (stand two metres apart).

·         Wash or sanitise your hands after using the allotment gate. It would be helpful to others if you wiped down the gate, as well, if you can.

·         Don’t wash your hands in the communal water troughs.

·         Don’t work on the allotment in groups of more than two. If you share the plot with someone from a different household then you must observe safe social distancing rules. Ideally, work out a timetable so you can visit the plot separately.

·         If you bump into people then maintain safe social distancing protocols at all times.

·         Don’t make anyone a cup of tea.

·         Don’t share tools.

·         Don’t visit the allotment shop.

·         Avoid taking your children the plot if you possibly can. If you do take them, ensure they keep to your plot and avoid playing on communal areas.

·         If you take your dog with you, ensure it is kept on a lead, within the bounds of your own plot. If it wanders off and you need to retrieve it from communal areas this could place you and others at risk.

·         Wash or sanitise your hands thoroughly before and after eating food, and when you get home.

Current Government advice could change, and Gardeners World will update there article when we have new advice.

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