Rye Allotments Asociation

Many a gardener has been led to his or her last planting by the dignified words of the Burial Service from the 1660 Book of Common Prayer: “I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord:… “

It continues with Psalm 90: “The days of our age are three-score years and ten; and though men be so strong, that they come to fourscore years: yet is their strength then but labour and sorrow; so soon passeth it away, and we are gone”.

It is from this Psalm and this familiar service that the popular myth has grown that the Divinely-ordained length of human life is 70 years. However, look at Genesis Chapter 6 verse 3. In both ancient and modern translations, Catholic or Protestant, the maximum length of human life is set at 120 years.

The Psalms were composed about 1,000 years BC – the late Bronze Age – and Genesis was written down probably a millennium earlier, referring back to Stone Age people in pre-historic (pre-writing) times. The earliest texts are therefore accessible only to expert palaeographers.

We must not forget that the Holy Bible was neither written in English nor published by authority of the British Government. Allotments are not mentioned, although there’s quite a lot about growing your own food.

The British Government’s statement of legal and moral support for allotment gardens is called “Growing in the Community” and makes the social and economic case for them. The first edition was published in 2001 following the 1998 report of a Parliamentary Committee. The Association paid £15 for the second edition of 2008, obtaining the big discount for bona fide societies. We have the 2010 supplement sent to us free of charge.

The book’s sponsor is the Department of Communities and Local Government: the ministerial foreword is updated for each edition. It is published by The Local Government Association, which has its own commendatory foreword.

It is therefore all the more reprehensible that Rother District Council has scheduled most of the Town’s provably statutory allotment lands for building. Rother should be doing its legal duty and protecting the three sites, which belong to Rye Town Council, not conniving with the builders of schools and houses to bury them under concrete.

These are the two threats: 4,800 new homes for Rother by 2028 – see the Observer of 11 January. How many of these will be dumped on Rye’s green open spaces? Will Rother District Council still exist in 2028? – we believe it will not. We will fight them using legal methods all the way.

Threat two is the relentless rise in the school leaving age. The relentless pressure to expand school buildings to accommodate increases in the school leaving age has been a feature of Education Acts from the time Rye’s

first allotments were laid down in the 1880s. The data is as follows:

1880 - 10 years

1893 - 11 years

1903 - 13 years

1918 - 14 years

1922 - 14 years

1930 - 15 years

1947 - 15 years

1973 - 16 years

2013 - 17 years

2015 - 18 years

The Lion Street School has been recovered for the Town, and may become a cinema. Poll Marsh was allotments until 1938 when the Thomas Peacocke Lower School was built there: it is now the scene of the planning farce involving Tesco and Sainsbury having been sold for £3,000,000 by the County Council. “ROSLA” is the Raising of School Leaving Age block in The Grove built on school land before the 1972 Local Government Act became effective in 1974.

Now East Sussex County Council wants more of the Love Lane allotments land for the expansion of the “educational facilities” planned for the area.

So what was the paragraph mentioning the span of human life all about? It is precisely this: each year, Her Majesty sends out more and more cards of congratulation to her subjects who have reached or passed their 100th birthday.

An increasing percentage of the population is reaching that crucial forty years, 80 to 120: and we see Rye’s

allotments as a prime factor in helping those octogenarians get the best out of them.

Royston Godwin.