A year ago, just a few days before the start of the summer holidays, I got The Call. After five years of impatient waiting, an allotment was available. I'd already turned down one without a shed, back in a damp and uninspiring November, so I was thrilled when one with a shed finally became available. It was very weedy, with seeding weeds chest-high, but it had previously belonged to the same man for 45 years and it had also been an award winning plot.
I didn't grow much last year, just a few radishes and some courgettes, but I did spend a long time weeding and clearing the ground. And then in the New Year it was time to begin. I put in some garlic, which did beautifully, and gradually I added little things I'd grown from seeds and some plants from the local garden shop. I pop down when I can, to battle the weeds. Lots of things seeded last year before I took over the plot, so this year there are lots of things trying to take over. And just lately I've been doing a lot of watering. And quite a bit of picking. And then I reached a point where it all felt just a bit overwhelming.
I think it began after the holiday. The weather was hot, lots of water was needed, but I had a hundred things to do at home, and there was also lots going on at school. I've had a little panic over all the time needed. I really need to find a job, and I think while I'm at the plot I feel I should be doing something that actually earns some money. And when I do find a job, I'm pretty sure I won't be able to keep the plot. There just aren't enough hours in the day. So I got to the point where I felt that the plot was something that maybe I'd be doing this year, but not next. And yet. And yet...
When I walk down there, and I see some really wonderful plots, when the children come along too and have fun "helping", exploring, picking things, when I leave the plot with a big bag of wonderful things, when everything is weeded and watered and in order, when I go to the open day and see what a great community is there, when I get to the site and close the gate behind me and enter a whole new world that moves peacefully and quietly, when I'm working there and I think about all the people in the almost 500-year history of the site that have worked there before me... Then I think that I will try so very hard to hold on to this wonderful little plot of mine. Weeds and all.
Can I show you around a little? First we need to head down the path to the flatter plots at the bottom.
Here we are. The one with the corrugated green shed is mine. It's a bit of a doddery shed and it's not watertight, but it has its own resident bees and inside is a nice little chair and my wellies and I love it.
In front of the shed are a few flowers, squashes, tomatoes and fennel.
Further up there are beans, asparagus and beetroot.
And then at the top of the plot is the fruit. Gooseberries, raspberries, blackcurrants and a little plum tree that I put in at the end of the winter.
And a Japanese wineberry that I found in the "Free" area of the allotment, where people leave things they don't want. I'm proud of this one; it sulked for ages, but I watered it, nurtured it, talked to it, and finally it started to grow. I've heard they're delicious.
I think that for me being an allotment holder might be a thing of ups and downs. Sometimes it will be a chore, and one I can barely fit into my life. And sometimes it will just be glorious. Today was a good day.
The soil there is fantastic and things are growing far better than at home. The weeds (in places) are under control (after a fashion). And rain is coming, so I didn't bother watering. I've even worked out how to get the rest of the blackcurrants and gooseberries picked. I shall turn it into a competition. The boy who picks the most will win. Now all I have to do is work out what to do with them all...
Back up to the top and along the dry grass path to the gate. I hope the boys have happy memories of this place. They all say they want to keep it, and on balance, so do I.