Spring 2020 Newsletter

CAAA (Colchester Avenue Allotments Association) newsletter – Spring 2020

Covid-19 precautions (see also back page) As we go to press there are few restrictions on working on our allotments. However, it’s wise to take simple precautions. Firstly, we all handle the gates and padlocks to get to and from our plots. Simple steps like bringing gloves or hand sanitiser with us will minimise the risk of spreading the virus when locking and unlocking.

Secondly, most of us like to chat to our plot neighbours and there’s no reason to stop doing this. But we should be mindful of keeping our distance and respect the wishes of those who feel particularly vulnerable. And only visit your plot on your own or with other members of your household.

Thirdly, the Committee has postponed the AGM (due to take place on April 24) until further notice. Existing committee members will remain in post where possible, but we are keen to recruit new members, in particular a Minutes Secretary and Shopkeeper (see below). Please email chairman Julian Goss if you are interested at jbgoss2@gmail.com. Julian Goss (chairman)


During the 12 months to December 2019 we spent £14,529, a shade less than in 2018. Most of this (£4,814) went on site improvements and maintenance (£4,782). We also spent £623 on security. Thanks to a lot of hard work and investment in stopping leaks, our water bill fell to £344 (from £4,329 in 2018). However, the actual cost of water for 2019 was nearer £650 as some Dwr Cymru bills fell outside the financial year.

Our income was also little changed at £14,298 (£14,105 in 2018), resulting in a small deficit for the year of £231. Overall, we ended the year in a healthy financial position with unrestricted funds totalling £9,297. We also have restricted funds of £8,260 in the key account. The key account is all those £20 we hand over for a key when we take on a plot. The key account is restricted because of course it consists entirely of deposits which have to be returned when people give up their plots.

We plan to use some of the unrestricted funds on further site maintenance and improvements now that the weather is finally improving. A full set of accounts is available by email from the treasurer Steven Place at mt59fc@btinternet.com. Steven Place (treasurer)

The Shop

Val Finch is stepping down as shopkeeper after many years of supplying compost, onion sets, bean poles and many other items. The Committee wishes to thank Val for her dedication and contribution to the CAAA community. Val’s departure does of course mean we have an opening for a new shopkeeper or shopkeepers. Anyone interested or wanting to know more should contact one of the committee.

Although the shop is closed for now because of the Corona virus, we would like to hear what plotholders want from the shop. In particular:

  • What would you like us to stock in the shop?
  • What day(s) and times would you be most likely to use the shop?

Please email your thoughts to johnsanders@clara.co.uk. John Sanders (newsletter editor, plot 24a)

Cheap seeds scheme 2019/20

I’m pleased to tell you that the committee’s decision to switch to buying cheap seeds from Dobies has been a success. More than 40 CAAA members have taken advantage of this convenient and good value offer. Each of the four indoor sessions I set up for people to collect catalogues and hand in orders was attended by at least half a dozen people.

Altogether, members have bought seeds and other items worth over £2,000 at a considerable discount (50% for seeds, 15% on other items in the Dobies catalogue including onion sets and seed potatoes). This year’s scheme closed on March 29th. Anyone who has been informed by Dobies that something on their order is unavailable should text me on 07811 806473 before the end of April to arrange a refund. We shall be using the Dobies seed scheme again next year. If you have any suggestions for how to make the scheme work better for CAAA members, please text me as above. Caroline Joll (committee member, plot 32B)

Troughs, fences, roads and houses

The wet and windy winter hasn’t been ideal for carrying out site improvements and repairs. However, we have fixed a number of water troughs, made some tarmac repairs to the roads and made the shop more secure. We plan to plug some of the gaps in the fences as soon as the weather allows.

Remember too that we now have a designated Scrap Bay for metal and a Waste Bay for anything except green waste and wood. You can find these bays opposite plot 118. These bays are for disposing of material already on site. Please DO NOT bring items on site and dump them.

Construction firm Wates plans to build new houses and flats alongside the site boundary immediately after you come through the vehicle gate. This is likely to lead to some access disruption for a short while. The Committee is talking to Wates and the Council to ensure the existing fence to the west of our access road is replaced with something more secure. Roger Kay (volunteer site manager)

More plots, same parking

We are gradually increasing the number of plots by dividing some larger plots into two or even three. This is in response to demand for smaller plots from people who don’t have the time to cultivate a 5 or 10 perch plot. One consequence of more plotholders is more cars. We have very limited parking space around the site, so please think carefully about whether you really need to bring a vehicle. If you do drive onto the site, then please park considerately so that others can use the parking areas too.

“5 a day”: Branding, green, grey, lob, long and red

It’s been known for some time that worms are vital in our gardens. However, they breathe through their skins, so they have to keep permanently moist. They die if they dry out. So they usually stay underground.

The largest British earthworm, the lob worm, comes out at night and drags leaves into its burrows, then eats them after they have decomposed. The lob worm is the largest, but not the most common. That’s the small to mediumsized worm known as the green worm. Interestingly this has a pink form as well as a green one, and the pink one is the one usually found in our gardens.

Another common worm is the grey worm, which is the one that often makes casts in our lawns. There’s also one called the long worm, and a smaller relative of the lob worm called the red worm. The small stripy red worm found in our compost bins in large numbers is the brandling worm.

Worms improve the organic content of the soil and its structure, partly by burrowing through the soil, and by eating their way through the soil and excreting it after digesting the organic matter. Their excrement normally contains a lot more calcium, nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and bacteria than the surrounding soil. They also enrich the soil by converting minerals into a form that is available for plants to take up.

Not bad for such an ugly little creature!

Covid-19 guidance from the National Allotment Society

See https://www.nsalg.org.uk/news/covid19-information/ for updates

  • Any plot-holder who is self-isolating because a household member is ill with corona-virus should not be visiting the site.
  • Everyone on site should stay 2 metres away from others.
  • Avoid body contact with others and use hand sanitiser.
  • Do not wash hands or use detergents in the water tanks.
  • Please pay attention to notice boards.
  • Do not allow unauthorised people onto plots for the duration of this emergency.
  • If you need to bring someone to assist with work on the plot, please ensure that this is notified to your Site Representative.
  • Careful consideration should be given to introducing anyone over 70, those with underlying illness or pregnant women.

Newsletter contact: johnsanders@clara.co.uk CAAA website http://www.caaa.org.uk

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