A GIANT barrel has taken pride of place in the heart of an allotment site in West Oxford.

For years the allotments in Botley, just off Bullstake Close, were watered by a series of troughs around the site.

The water collected in the troughs, which was used to nurture residents' cabbages, flowers and green beans was drinking water.

Concerned that precious water supplies were being used just for growing plants and vegetables, several members of the West Oxford Allotments Association put their heads together to come up with a solution.

Committee member Phil Sampson said the association's secretary and hydrologist Nick Jackson was the genius behind the new plan.

He said: "The water was clearly wasted on allotments and obviously it is more important that this water is used in homes.

"So Nick had this genius idea.

"On the one side of the allotments there is a stream and we thought why do we not use the water coming from the stream?"

After getting the okay from the Environment Agency (EA) a system of pipes was connected to a large barrel which can store 5,500 litres of water.

Mr Sampson added: "Of course we checked with the EA if we were able to take the water from the stream.

"And so we have had a network of pipes put in which will feed from the stream directly into the tank.

"Our next challenge was to build a platform to put the tank on so that there would be enough pressure to release the water when allotment holders needed it.

"We are really chuffed with the results and think that it could be the way forward for other sites."

Oxford city councillor Susanna Pressel said: "This is an exciting project and I’m pleased to be able to use some of my ward member budget to cover part of the cost.

"We are lucky to have some ingenious people in this allotment association and also some practical people who can get things done.

"They make a great team.

"This project will considerably reduce the expenditure of the association, so that they can keep down the cost of plot hire and spend more money on improvements to their beautiful site beside the Bullstake Stream."

Both Mr Sampson and Mr Jackson said they would be happy to discuss similar projects on other sites with associations who were conscious of saving valuable drinking water.

For more information about project barrel visit westoxfordallotments.org