Monday, 20 June 2011

A Tale of Two Allotments

One unexpected benefit of having allotments on 2 different sites is that it's given me an insight into how disparate allotment culture can be from site to site.

My old allotment site at Bressingham certainly has it's fair share of disadvantages. The heavy, clay soil, the complete lack of water, the well established weeds which have had a decade to run rampant, not to mention the local residents and their anti-allotment campaign plus the fact that it's a 5 minute drive away from home. It was enough to make me run into the arms of my newly acquired Diss based allotment.

The advantages of the new plot are legion, running water - yes - actual taps for goodness sake, a mere 10 paces away! The soil has been tended for years and has a lovely fine texture, diligent previous tenants have kept on top of the nasty weeds, I don't have so much as a single dandelion to contend with and, the major advantage, it is a 3 minute walk from home.

But I've recently come to realise that the Bressingham site has hidden talents. Yes, it's a bit weedy and we've still got vacant plots aplenty but that gives the whole place a fairly relaxed, shambolic air which I'm worryingly at home in. I love the riot of poppies and cammomile which spring up around the sheds and carpet the vacant plots, they're beautiful against the backdrop of the open countryside that surrounds the site. No-one here is going to purse their lips if I leave a clump of poppies on the footpath just because I think they're pretty, or let the clover grow to help the bees.

Almost every plot holder has children of varying ages which means that if a few of us are down there, the children can roam as a pack enjoying an approximation of a 1950's childhood. They go to the see horses in the next field, roam the vacant plots digging up worms, search the ditches for frogs or chase the pheasants (not peasants) in the hedges. Tractors trundle the lanes and geese from the smallholding over the road honk overhead. (Keep this bucolic rural idyll in your mind and ignore the stinking, monsterous crop spraying tractor in the field next door which made me flee for home the other week.) Anti-rabbit fences around each plot not only keep the rabbits out but make sure the kids don't trample indiscriminately over neighbouring plots, what do they say about strong fences making good neighbours?

By contrast, Diss may have significant practical advantages but, goodness me, the pressure of being next to the old boys and their straight rows, fecund plots and zero tolerance policy on weeds! There aren't any lovely, safe fences so I have to be ever vigilant about trampling and nag the girls to stay on our plot continually. To be fair, the old boys seem to be quite taken with small girls and we've had the odd gift of newly picked carrots for them to munch on but I can't imagine they'd be quite so indulgent if small feet destroyed their rows of hard work.

And dear Lord, the weeding, if the slightest stalk of shepherd's purse shows it's face I get palpitations. Most evenings see me shouldering my hoe to go and toil once more at the weedface, I may not be digging up dandelion roots but the annuals are hard work too.

So what about you? What the allotment culture on your site? Do families and the old guard peacefully co-exist? Or has civil war broken out?


  1. My allotments are pretty laid back..there are a few oldies that frown at the kids but not quite so many now I have been around for 4 years and they have found out that I'm not going anywhere!!

    As for the weeds....not hugely bothered form what I can tell...there are beautiful plots...there are normal plots with the normal amount of weeds then there are those that are so overrun you wonder how the owners get away with it year in year out...the committee are starting to get a little stricter on tidiness of plots but I think this is due to the waiting list that there is for a plot in our area.....all in all it's quite a relaxed atmosphere and most people are very friendly but I have to admit to keeping to myself mostly and enjoying the solitude I can get from the plot or teaching the children different things!

  2. I guess that being new I'm still not sure what a 'normal' amount of weeds is. I know what you mean about the solitude, I normally go during the day while my youngest is at nursery and I rarely see other people - it's great!