We take a look at a local allotment to find out what they've been getting up to recently. One of our customers, Mrs Christine Simpson, who is Chairman of Belstead Allotments is keen to tell us about the new composting toilet that they have recently had installed on their site. Read on to find out more:
Five years ago, Christine took early retirement and became Chairman of her Allotment site. Since then, together with her Field Warden Mel Wilkinson, the two of them have made a few changes at the site. Christine says, "We’ve got 179 plots and now, compared to a few years ago, we’re full, with a long waiting list as the demand for space to grow your own has increased. We’ve got a real mix of people, some keep chickens, others don’t have much garden at home, so use their plot, not only for vegetables and flowers, but to bring their children down to enjoy the outdoor life. It’s a real family affair for a lot of plot holders. We’re down a fairly long rural lane and whilst the site is secure with locked gates, it’s not immediately close to any facilities, so we’ve put a few in. We’ve brought in an old shipping container to act as a secure lock-up for gardening supplies; we’ve converted an old shed into a meeting place with heaters and stoves for a warm cup of tea and provided some picnic benches for social get-togethers at weekends, but there were no toilets."
"The first thing I did was look into the possibility of a composting toilet as the site does not have mains drainage. After looking around on the internet, I found out the cost of what I wanted (£10,000) and then I wrote applying for grant funding to Ipswich Borough Council. I stated that we didn’t have mains drainage, and that the model I’d seen was totally eco -friendly. No water would be necessary and the contents would naturally rot down and be ready to put back on the plot in the form of usual compost within about 2 years. I also mentioned that the toilet would be easily accessed by all - including children and the less-abled. The council agreed to help, but could only give us £7,000 towards the cost. They also wanted to see that we were doing what we could to raise money and help fund it. I then wrote to the individual councillors of the locality, for what is called Locality Budget Funding. Two councillors offered to help and were able to give the remaining £3,000 required."
Once Chris and Mel had the money, they went to NATSOL, a Wales based company, who then gave them the details of what had to be done in preparation. A large pit or ‘vault’ had to be dug. This was 2m x 2.5m square and almost a metre deep. They also had to put in a pipe for a soak away for liquids which simply went straight into the soil. The council provided a grab lorry to lift firstly, the large tank to sit in the vault - this was then cemented into place. Then the toilet compartment and floor were lifted to rest on top of the main waste vault. The floor has 4 man-hole type doors which can be lifted as necessary to access the main waste vault (the actual loo seat sits over one). It’s cleverly designed so that liquid soaks away into the soil whilst other deposits go down into the vault, each time covered with a scoop of sawdust. They can only use unbleached toilet paper or old newspaper, but that’s the only concession they have to make. There’s little maintenance (none so far) and the company even supplies gel to use for handwashing as no water is involved.
The toilet was officially opened by one of the supporting councillors in June 2010. Chris says she can’t recommend it enough. "It’s green, it’s organic and there isn’t a single nasty niff! It’s proven to be a God-send, enabling people to spend much more time down here without worrying about getting caught short. We can’t wait until the toilets’ 2nd anniversary as after 2 years, the contents of the vault should be just like normal compost and ready to use on the plots. I think people will want to see it first though, before they ask for a barrow load!"
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Mel and Christine outside their composting toilet.
Chris with her row of T&M; cucumber plants and infront of her flower pouches full of busy lizzies waiting to hang out.
The grants paid for the entire landscaping of the area creating full disabled access to the toilet and meeting shed.