A townie to her toes, with 22 years and still counting inner-city living in the heart of the Grassmarket helter-skelter, it’s her beautiful blue shed, not only her haven, but her thinking, planning, creating, growing and storing space in her Midmar Shangri-la that lights up this woman’s life. On a jaunty little blackboard just inside the door she has chalked ‘Welcome to Paradise’.
“I waited eight years for a plot on this site,” says self-employed massage therapist Valeska as she boils the kettle for our Sunday coffee cup, “And still I know that I am very fortunate indeed. When I cycle from my home, unlock the shed door and prepare for a day’s gardening, it’s as if I have arrived in another world.”
However, Valeska’s shed is possible because right from the start (early 1900s) it was a given that Midmar offered a plot that came with shed and/or greenhouse permissions. Today, in the light of security concerns, space issues and good neighbour considerations, City of Edinburgh Council has reconsidered such approvals.
A new approach
Head of Parks, Gardens and Green Spaces in Edinburgh David Jamieson knows that this changes the quality of the plot-holder experience. Does he question that this would necessarily be in a negative way?
“Not necessarily,” he says. “There are many examples of where a communal hut or store has helped create a sense of collectivism and neighbourliness amongst plot holders. Given the amount of space that individual huts take up it usually also makes sense to maximise the available growing area at an allotment site by providing a single central facility rather than myriad individual sheds.
“In some locations these come in the form of converted existing buildings (e.g. Victoria Park), and at other sites by creating secure new facilities (e.g. Dumbryden). Occasionally resources allow plot-holders to really push the design boat out, as seen at the stunning and innovative India Place allotments.
These new ideas create a range of alternatives to the shed at the bottom of the plot. But for those sites already dotted with structures of all shapes and sizes, in various states of usefulness and repair, challenges present in a different way.
At Inverleith, rabbits have had a field day creating under-floor burrows. From these safe havens, they decimate leeks, carrots and spring greens. Site Chair Stuart McKenzie says: “The key issue is that sheds need to be well maintained and set on a good slabbed base. If not, they can cause nuisance to your neighbour’s plot. The problem is actually exacerbated by halving plots, which tends to double the number of sheds at a site."
A shed or no shed at the bottom of the plot. What’s it to be? Times are changing, green space is highly prized, and numerous sheds in a small space don’t seem to match the current trends.
But then . . . there’s that pot of gold . . . don’t we all hanker after it just a little?