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Top gymnast launches huge new allotments scheme

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New allotments have opened across Pendle and schools, including Barrowford and Higham, have been given free plots.

A former Olympian from Burnley has realised his green dream of opening a community allotment in his home town.

Gold medal-winning gymnast Craig Heap spent three years developing the idea for green growing spaces at a Reedley beauty spot.

Now the double Commonweath Games champ has thrown open the doors on his new Greenhead Allotments venture.

The land off Greenhead Lane has space for 150 growers to take up a plot which he hopes will help ease lengthy waiting lists for council allotments.

Craig, who represented Team GB at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, is also offering free community plots which are already being snapped up by groups including Community Solutions, Burnley Boys and Girls’ Club, Safenet and even schools in Higham and Barrowford.

The 40-year-old, who is to star in a new BBC celebrity gymnastics talent show, believes it will bring youngsters, pensioners and other groups together and grow real community spirit.

He said: “It is all about bringing different generations and backgrounds together and so far it is working really well. I am really interested in healthy lifestyles but not everybody is turned on by going to the gym so this is a great opportunity for people to be fit and active and spend time outdoors.

“It is a nice place where families can go and communities can come together.

“I am really excited about having groups like Safenet and Age UK involved as well as children from the schools.”

The venture is the result of three years’ work by Craig, working with Pendle Council, to come up with allotments that are financially viable but sensitive to the greenbelt.

Gardeners can rent a plot to grow fruit, vegetables and plants – but there are no sheds or greenhouses allowed due to it being on the greenbelt and no livestock on site.

Craig said: “Some people had reservations about how it would look – they didn’t want a stereotypical allotment site.

“I wanted to prove you could use the greenbelt as long as it is done sensitively and carefully.”

Genevieve Waite, of Community Solutions which runs foodbanks and training schemes, is one group to benefit from a free plot.

She said: “We are planning to have volunteers getting involved to develop skills. We will be growing fresh produce to support our food banks and food parcels so we can get more fresh fruit and veg to people.

“The allotments are a very positive thing. They have been absolutely fantastic – they really get our ethos and love that it is about supporting the community.”

 

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