I love allotments. I love those productive shanty towns that you often see at the side of housing estates, edging railway lines, or just beyond the local sewage works. I relish the make-do-and-mend of gardeners’ huts fashioned from lengths-of-wood-and-bits-and-bobs, set alongside neat little cabins bought from B&Q. I enjoy contrasting planting styles. Here – neat meticulous rows of cabbages, beets, carrots and potatoes: there – less organised plots with discarded tyres serving as planters for courgettes and beans set among a hotchpotch of gooseberry and redcurrant bushes. I love the camaraderie of the allotment community – the willingness to share hard-earned knowledge, tips, seeds, cuttings, and even muscle-power. So much more fun that a solitary afternoon battling with weeds.
In Harrogate, I had an allotment. I was the disorganised type, always running from behind, because work and family life got in the way. In France, our vegetable garden was too far away to get the attention it deserved. Here in North Stainley, there are no allotments …..
….. until now.
A few years ago, some villagers decided to initiate an allotment project. They worked hard, but progress was slow. Surrounded by countryside, even identifying a suitable site proved difficult.
I heard about the plans and asked to become involved just as the group reached a turning point. The local landowner has offered to rent out a plot large enough for ten full-sized allotments. An allotment is ten poles (or rods or perches) large. That’s the size of a doubles tennis court. We reckon most people will be happy with a half plot. Twenty allotments then.
So last Saturday we went to look at the land. It’s a large chunk at the end of a productive field, and it’s currently rather wet, like just about every other field in England. Promising though.
Then we went along to neighbouring Boroughbridge, where they’ve had an Allotments Society for the last 6 years or so. They were friendly and generous with their time. So much to think about though. Paying for water to be piped to the site. Thinking about car-parking and access to individual plots. Keeping pesky rabbits at bay. What to do with allotment tenants who grow only weeds. Establishing a fair rent and knowing what that rent has to pay for. We’ll be lucky to be up and running for next winter. There’ll certainly be no planting before 2017…