When I found out I had been allocated an allotment at the start of this year I tried to get hold of as many books about allotments and growing fruit and vegetables as possible. It wasn’t long before I felt I was reading the same information, going over the same ground. Our Plot is something different and I loved it.
The book is the personal story of the author Cleve West and his allotment experiences over the last 10 years. Cleve is a respected garden designer who won a gold medal and ‘Best in Show’ at Chelsea this year. I first came across him when he wrote a gardening column in The Independent but this is his first book and I loved his style so much, I hope he writes more.
Our Plot is less a book about how to grow, as he says, there are plenty of these types of books available, and more a celebration of allotments, the people he has met, the produce he grows and the creativity he can express on his bit of land.
I enjoyed his honesty. He doesn’t gloss over the problems that come with having an allotment; the hard work and time constraints, vandalism and not being able to go out of your back door and pick your produce. He admits there are times they’d rather buy stuff from the supermarket.
The photographs are beautiful with their rich, sumptuous colours and there are some lovely bits of humour in the stories about his fellow allotment holders. The photo of Mrs Luu and her giant pumpkin made me smile (you’ll have to buy the book to see what I mean). My plot is on a small rural site, unlike Cleve’s urban site and I was more that a little envious of the exotic mix of plot holders and produce, the open days and not to mention Cleve’s 4 sheds.
There are sections on wildlife and recipes which add another dimension. Cleve also highlights problems which we will face in the future such as ‘peak oil’ and how allotments could help.
This is a touching, heart-warming book which managed to make me, as a novice plot holder feel better about my first year’s attempts but also has inspired me to keep going. Cleve has captured everything that is special about allotments as he says ‘being there is as important as what ends up on the pate’. This is a must read.