To mark National Allotment Week (6th – 12th August) I thought I’d pay homage to my own plot.
It’s only 20 metres by 6 metres (60ft by 18ft) and, other than the paths I’ve put in, is nothing more than a simple patch of ground. It lies on the edge of the village and is only a 5 minute walk from my home. It may well just be a humble bit of soil but there aren’t many other things that give me so much pleasure in life and all for the bargain price of £10 a year.
I have had my plot for just over 18 months now but it has become such a fixture in my life. It is a place to escape to. I live in a village but houses and gardens are still squeezed in and barking dogs, mowers and strimmers and those cursed trampolines, can mean that sometimes my back garden is not quite the tranquil retreat I envisaged. My plot, although next to a busy road is somewhere I’m rarely troubled by the sort of noises that drive me to distraction. I can happily potter away lost in a kind of meditation of plants and soil. Wellyman knows when I say I’m off to the plot and that I won’t be long, to expect me back several hours later.
It might only be a small bit of land but it has given me the opportunity to grow so many different plants, many more than I would have ever been able to do so at home; provide tasty, healthy produce for the kitchen and has allowed me to indulge in my love of cut flowers. It’s somewhere to get fresh air and exercise, somewhere to meet and chat with others.
For someone who feels a little rootless, having left my native north-east 15 years ago and moved around a lot over the subsequent years, it is, strangely, the allotment that has made me feel like I have an attachment to somewhere, more so than my home and garden. I have no idea why this is so. With yet more rumbles of restructuring and redundancy at Wellyman’s place of work it got me thinking the other day about the possibility of having to move again. And the thought that saddened me the most was the idea of giving up my plot. Possibly because I know how difficult it is to find houses with decent sized gardens and that the chances of easily getting an allotment somewhere else would be slim. It is, hopefully, something I won’t have to do but it made me realise how the idea of giving people the opportunity to have some land, albeit small, can be so incredibly empowering and meaningful. And it’s something that goes across cultural boundaries. I loved reading in Cleve West’s book Our Plot about the different nationalities that have allotments on his site in London, proving it’s not just us eccentric Brits who appreciate the opportunities allotments can bring, and that the desire to grow is universal.
I love the structure of my plot and how growing there differs so much from in my garden. My garden often frustrates the perfectionist in me, when it doesn’t quite look how I imagined it would. The allotment, on the other hand, doesn’t have to live up to such expectations; it is purely about production. I can grow different flowers together I would never dream of growing in the garden because their colours would clash. I can pick buckets of sweet peas and not worry that the plants will look bare. I can net and fleece and not care that the plot looks like Miss Havisham’s house in Great Expectations because I don’t have to stare at it whilst I’m doing the washing up.
There’s a great view across to the Monmouthshire hills and the easterly parts of the Brecon Beacon National Park from the allotment. As the days, weeks and months pass the seasons change and so to does the view from the plot. From the first signs of spring, the daffodils lining the road and green returning to the hills, to the shafts of summer light poking through clouds and casting shadows across the fields and the mellowness of autumn, the bleached blond fields and the light, lower on the horizon. Even in winter, there is a beauty to my visits to the plot. Mists roll in and snow covers the hills in the distance.
So, in this National Allotment Week, I raise a glass to my plot.