Allotment thefts: Digging up the dirt on allotment 'vegilantes'

As growing veg becomes more popular, so too has stealing produce and sabotaging small plots

Nearly 100,000 people are signed up to waiting lists for allotments in Britain, with 350,000 enthusiasts already tending plots. But while growing food prices and a nostalgic thirst for the Good Life continue to feed a national urge to pick up a trowel, it seems there simply isn’t enough soil to go around. And as demand for spaces soars, tensions are running high.

Across Britain reports have surfaced of so-called ‘vegilantes’ pilfering produce, sabotaging land, breaking into and even burning down sheds – while disputes over plot-holder standards and eviction rates are growing like weeds.

Tony Mason, 71, has had his prize vegetables sabotaged in a targeted ‘inside job’ going on for four years – once just days before he was due to enter the Torquay Allotment Holders Annual Competition. Another time, as he prepared for the coveted Best Vegetable in Show category, his shed was broken into – with nothing stolen apart from two Bill and Ben figurines belonging to his wife, Janet. They were later found stuffed behind the downpipe in another part of the allotment. Mr Mason, committee chairman at his site in Devon, believes the sabotage was the work of a rival competitor.

“I’ve got a lot of ambitions this year unless someone decides they don’t want me to win,” he says.

His is an all-too familiar story among those documented in Allotment Wars, to be shown on BBC1 tonight.

Michael Rock from Hastings was taken to court by fellow growers who said his choice of fruit trees rather than vegetables threatened a deep-rooted tradition. They won – Mr Rock, 60, was forced to pay £650. 

In Manchester, 28-year-old teaching assistant Ben Carcamo recalls how he thought taking up an allotment would be a “friendly” and “harmonious” way of relaxing. But he says: “It turned out far from idyllic. One of my friends said to me: ‘It’s not like Alan Titchmarsh here’.”

The father of two says his dream turned sour when fellow plot-holders turned to “the dark side” through jealousy when they saw his land was perfect for growing whopper pumpkins.

“Once they realised how fertile the land was, they started suggesting maybe it was too much for me, maybe they should give it to someone else,” he said.

Mr Carcamo is part of a new generation of green-fingered folk. With home-grown produce now in vogue, this thriving cottage industry is no longer the preserve of the old and retired. Roughly half of people with allotments are now women – up from 35 per cent to 54 per cent in the past 20 years – according to the National Allotment Society, and an increasing number are young people. Tony Mason, who started out helping his father on his plot at the age of 16, told The Independent that a lot has changed. “Back then it was only the fellows up there, but now you see husbands and wives going together, not only that but you’re seeing much younger people.”

Michelle Stacey in Bexley, Kent, finds her homely shed is regularly broken into – though surely by the world’s most considerate trespasser. The intruder – a man judging by the size of his footprint – makes himself a cup of tea, lights a scented candle and lays back on the sofa, before washing up.

As Lewis, a Torquay plot-holder says: “An allotment is a microcosm of society. You get a lot of doers but there’s always a few people who are going to cause a problem.”

Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voices

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
The last great picture - Winner 'Black and White' and overall 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year'
art
News
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee
people

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - SThree Group - Bristol

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: SThree Group has been...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - SThree Group - Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: SThree Group has been...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Computer Futures

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - SThree - £18k Starting Salary

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: SThree Group has been...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London