Should Charlton’s gardeners run their own allotments?

One topic that’s close to people’s hearts and has been coming up habitually in conversations around Charlton recently are the Highcombe allotments. They are one of two in the Charlton area (the other one being at Cherry Orchard) and mean a lot to all sorts of different people. I know from experience; my dad has one back home in Dorset and it’s his pride and joy. Anything he can muster – from spinach to onions to strawberries (when the weather’s nice).

Greenwich Council is putting the price of renting allotments up, so the local people who pay a yearly lease for them are awaiting the news of how much more this is going to be. Some people within the Highcombe community have had the idea of breaking away from the council and privatising the allotments in order to avoid having to pay more for the land.

I spoke to a local resident who has rented land from the council for a few years now. She pays yearly, from April-April usually, but this year it has gone from April-June, so the announcement of how much the price will go up by won’t be until then. Her main concern about going private involves a number of factors and suggests it would be much better to keep the allotment under the maintenance of the council.

Her main concerns are that if the allotments went private, there would be extra costs to pay and sort out that the council does now already. These include a possible water meter, maintenance of the fence, finding a skip which at the moment is provided by the council, and finding manure, which at the moment is delivered by the council twice a year. She feels these costs which are included in the yearly lease fee at the moment will add all sorts of extra costs and burdens to the residents.

At the moment, the woman I spoke to only shares a small patch with someone else, but she told me there are lots of families who have much bigger areas to maintain and so it would cost them a lot more if prices went up. She said she may well have to give her rods up because it will be difficult to pay for, which is a shame for people who spend their time reading, planting and relaxing.

She did stress that the council has been pretty good up until now with helping residents out and maintaining the allotment. This is just one opinion. Maybe you have a different opinion and think the only way to save it is to privatise it. I’d love to hear.

Japanese classes at Charlton House

Have you ever considered learning Japanese? Watched Japanese films or had an interest in anime or manga? Or have a girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse that is Japanese and just want to learn a bit of the lingo? A closely kept secret in Charlton, it seems, is that at Charlton House during the weekdays anyone can go along and study Japanese. I don’t know about you, but I was quite surprised by this as I didn’t know there was such an active Japanese community, despite seeing the beautiful garden at the house.

The classes are run by the IIEL (Institute of International Education in London) and although they are designed to teach teachers who want to teach Japanese, I believe anyone is invited to go along and it doesn’t matter whether you are a beginner or an advanced speaker.

There’s a one time registration fee of £18 but after that, the classes are free if you take the teaching classes otherwise they’re free. I spoke to Clay Harris who has been going along to the classes, and he told me that he had met such a diverse cross-section of people and called it, “London at its multicultural best, all ages and backgrounds.”

People who have been to the classes have said there is a real sense of community there – and what a great use of Charlton House! The institute holds cultural evenings there sometimes where some of the students give a presentation about an aspect of Japanese culture in English and there is also an annual sports day there!

I wasn’t aware there was such an active Japanese community in Charlton, but if it’s right there on our doorsteps, it seems like a great opportunity to try something different and meet new people. I shall certainly be giving it a go if time permits! Let me know if you’ve been, what you think about it or if there’s anything I’ve missed out.