Stoke City star Ryan Shotton joins Potters' legend Denis Smith on visit to Fenton allotments
STOKE City star Ryan Shotton got stuck in with the spadework after opening an allotment site.
He visited Hilltop Allotments in Fenton after the club's Community Trust donated about £1,000 towards a new ramp, allowing disabled access to the facility.
After a tour of the allotments the 23-year-old said: "It's great to see how the community have come together, raising money for the project.
"It's good because I bet half of these people had never met before they bought the allotments, and now they're all friends."
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The Fenton-born player said he had no idea the project, in Fenpark Road, existed before the club was approached to donate to the cause.
He said: "I was so pleased to be asked to come along today. When the club was asked to send a player down, they said there was only one lad they wanted to do the job – me.
"The allotment holders even gave me a shovel so I could join in."
Stoke City Football Club's Community Trust was founded in 1989 and became a registered charity in 2004.
Head of community, Adrian Hurst, said: "We like to donate to projects like this because we are a community club.
"The charity does a lot of work with children, but we want to ensure we are helping all areas of the community."
The allotments were created on previously derelict land.
Site secretary, Tony Williams, who has been involved with the project since 2008, said: "The community decided we really wanted the allotments and the feedback we've had from people is extremely positive.
"Our aim from day one was to make the allotments as accessible as possible for everyone, including the elderly and those with disabilities who may wish to access the site.
"The donation from Stoke City allowed us to build a ramp to the allotment building, where there were previously steps."
The site has been designed to be as self-sustaining as possible. It uses recycled rain water collected from the building roofs for use on the site and for the toilets.
Mr Williams said: "The funding we received means a lot.
"To have a Premier League footballer come down and meet the residents and allotments owners is fantastic.
"I would like to thank the club for their donation, and I would like to thank Mick Bell, the former councillor, as he really helped to keep the project going when it looked like it would fall through."
During the last year, the allotment association has installed a new pathway to make the centre more wheelchair accessible.
Wheelchair user, Phil Jones, aged 69, from Fenpark Road, has owned an allotment since 2010 and said access has improved considerably.
He said: "Before they had a rough dirt path that I couldn't manage in the wheelchair but now they have put in a proper path it's much easier."
Allotment owner, Emma Sugden, aged 35, from Dambury Street, said the Hilltop Allotments have brought the community together.
She said: "Everyone here is very friendly and helpful.
"When we first bought our allotment, we were novices and we found that people were more than happy to help us."
Andy Platt, Stoke-on-Trent City Council cabinet member for green enterprises said: "This project is fantastic because local people can use these facilities to cultivate a source of food, and that is very important in these hard economic times.
"Communities have access to grants for projects like this that the council can't touch.
"If every community took advantage of these grants, we would bring in potentially millions every year."
To find out more about allotments in the city, contact the council on 01782 234234.