Monday, 22 June 2009

First ever open day on our allotment site

I'd been so busy with work, family and getting the plot ready for our first Allotment Open Day, I didn't even notice our allotment committee had put an advert in the paper about it.

I was late turning up on Saturday - rushed out to the plot, anticipating rain but instead met with a constant stream of well-wishing visitors - all interested in what we were growing, how we were growing it, and why - visiting dignitaries included a trained herbalist and a local government representative. (I'd been talking to the poor chap about rabbit manure and related topics for about twenty minutes before I realised who he was...)

All afternoon I waxed (happily) lyrical about the challenges of converting a derelict plot (ORGANICALLY of course) - the advantages of mulching, the dangers of frost, foxes, mice, pigeons, slugs and what to do about them. It was great to stop for a coffee and chat for a little while, instead of labouring...

Even if I do say so myself - everything looked pretty good on the plot. There were even a few concrete illustrations of our allotment plotting skills. I was just about to showcase the mini-pond when a shining new froglet had the foresight to climb out of the washing up bowl onto a stone - as if to demonstrate the point!

I made a pretty good pitch for Garden Organic too - handing out some leaflets, listing the many benefits of being a member and sharing fond memories of the chocolate bread and butter pudding I consumed at their first class restaurant at Ryton where I did my training to become a mentor for the Garden Organic Food for All programme (the training took place at the training centre, I mean - not in the restaurant....)

During the course of the day I realised how proud we should be - after all we're one of the largest sites in Britain. About half the visitors were allotment holders from other sites comparing notes - or people who wanted a plot.

Whilst mulling over the best time to prune cherry plums we talked hard politics too...everyone noticed we've still got lots of derelict plots on site, and no-one (including me) can come up with a good enough excuse as to why the council hasn't done anything about this situation.

The derelict plot next door (the one I photographed for this blog back in March) STILL doesn't have an owner - and there are more of these - around twenty I would guess. It's crazy - I don't understand it - we have a huge waiting list. And judging by all the visitors to our site there are loads of people who are desperate for a plot, bless them.

Still, there's talk of progress in other directions. A composting toilet! That would be an improvement - as we have around 200 plots and no 'facilities'. I tried to explain how difficult this is for all kinds of visitors (families with toddlers, those with disabilities in the family to name just a few). Yup. Composting toilet(s)? are the way to go!

The day was rounded off by a lovely barbecue - so thanks to the committee. Met a lovely lady from a local housing trust who talked a lot of sense and has a wonderful vision of where we might go from here...

Looking back - it is less than ten years since our site was under threat from being sold off and turned into a tennis court. This was documented in local newspapers.

I had the good fortune to meet one of the people who played a substantial part in saving our skins. Our friend told me how 'the powers-that-be' had tried to keep the sell off plan hush, hush. But this 'local hero' saved the day. He used his rights under the Freedom of Information Act to secure documentation of a secret council meeting. When the news came out - and with the spade-work-support of plot holders and nearby residents - the political 'tide' was turned.

So thanks to 'Mr. Hero' and all the other people who took part in the struggle. Without you - we wouldn't have fresh new potatoes for tea today...and I for one don't know what I'd do without the plot...

For those who'd like to know more about the current status of allotment waiting lists in England - check out the survey 'Allotment Waiting lists in England' on the NSLAG (National Society of Leisure and Allotment Gardeners) website, written by Margaret Campbell and Ian Campbell and supported by Transition Town West Kirby in conjunction with the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners.

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