What The Ell?



The following two pieces are taken from the Mail on Sunday (courtesy of Lufthansa) picked up when I flew via Frankfurt to Linz. It made lightly fascinating reading, is typical of the

mail papers, trying to start a “crusade”, a rant about bureaucracy and, just perhaps over-egging the pudding:

“Metric Zealots axe 600-year-old rules on allotments

Town hall bureaucrats were last night accused of “officiousness for its own sake” in forcing thousands of allotment holders nationwide to scrap

imperial measurements and go metric.

For generations, allotment sizes have been defined using a 600 year old system of “rods” also known as “poles” or “perches”, equivalent to5.5 yards. In the

past few weeks, however, thousands of gardeners have received rent renewal notices informing them of the switch. A typical site of ten poles will now be

registered as 253 square metres.

Strangely neither central nor local government can agree on who ordered the change or why it is being made now.

Warwick Cairns of the pro-imperial British Weights and Measures Association said: “It’s officiousness for its own sake. there is no reason for it. The

European Commission gave up on metric Britain in in 2007.” Allotments are still legally defined in poles and mandarins in Whitehall were baffled by the change.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said:

“There is no central government requirement for town halls measure up the size of their allotments. This sounds like the work of over-zealous municipal officials.”

But a spokes man for Basingstoke Council, one of those making the change, said it was complying with legislation. I’m not sure when the law changed, but this is the first year we’ve implemented it.”


This second piece is from Comment (the editorial) and I imagine the editor was happy to get his teeth around something so safely archaic:

“Spare the Rod…

Like country branch lines, church bells and hedgerows, our ancient measures link us poetically with our half-forgotten past.

Polished in use, furlongs, firkins, bushels and acres whisper of another slower, more peaceful time. So why get rid of rods, poles and perches in allotments, of all places?

these are places for quiet contemplation, where urgent modernisation is need less and unwelcome.

we don’t export allotments to Germany or Japan, so why should we measure them in soulless metres/ Spare the rod, pole and perch.”


As some exam papers are wont to say: discuss.


3 responses to this post.

  1. They can’t force you to throw your measuring sticks away, whether they are rods, poles or something to knock them off their perches with! Sue


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