1 Jul 2016

My new cool allotment

Hard to believe I'm still in London!


A few years ago, a local friend invited me up to see her allotment at Fitzroy Park up near Highgate. She's an artist so her plot was quirky, filled with colour and fabulous. Other plots around were similarly individual. I instantly fell in love with the place, a peaceful haven at the top of an old farm lane and next to Hampstead Heath. I was unlikely to ever achieve my dream of having a plot there because the waiting list was closed and plots rarely given up.

A few days ago, that same friend asked if I'd be interested in a plot share. The plot belongs to a local lady in her 80s.  She took on the plot after her husband died and together they've gardened the plot for 46 years.  That's something, right?  She can't manage the plot alone but likes to go up there to see old friends and potter about.  There must be a lot of memories attached to that piece of land.

My friend's daughter had been helping out but she found it too challenging once her baby was born; as a result, warm weather, rain and time started to wreak their effects on the plot.  And that was when my friend sent me a text to see if I was interested.

What do you reckon I said? A bit of a no-brainer, that one! Although I did pause momentarily to think whether I'd have time for it but, honestly, how could I refuse! An allotment share! At Fitzroy Park! Wowzer!

To put this excitement into context, I should explain that these allotments are highly desirable, being in a secure location on old farm land, high up, surrounded by the trees of Hampstead Heath yet with a lovely open aspect. The community is pretty great there too, from what I can see.

I went up on Saturday to meet Doreen, the plot holder, and take a bit of a gander round.  I was introduced to several other plotters who were all very welcoming, even letting me take shelter when the rain started.

Doreen has one of the smaller plots which has been well looked after but there were still brambles to be dug out, bindweed and nettles to clear, pruning to be done, blackcurrants to be netted and grass to strim.  A couple of beds were buried under a blanket of weeds and bolted vegetation so that was where I needed to start.

Doesn't look too bad, after strimming the paths and grass ...

On the other hand ... Don't look to the left! Still, nice bench. 

I was keen to get started so set off early on Sunday morning to walk up to the plots. Eventually I'll get a parking permit for my car but until then it's a half hour walk up a steep hill, past Arts and Crafts houses, verdant verges and glimpses of the Heath.  By the evening, I'd almost cleared and roughly dug over the beds and filled 8 bags of garden waste which I'm told I can take to plot holder Mick's "crusher" so he can turn it into compost. Several people who I'd met on Saturday said hello and I met my plot neighbour who offered me half of his beautiful red cabbage plantlets, a very auspicious start to my tenure.

There are drawbacks to balance out all the awesome beauty of this place; I'm told the pigeons are voracious and will strip any plants not netted and the slug problem seems to be much worse than in my home veg patch. (One of the other 'helpers' has been using non-organic slug pellets; that will have to stop.) On the plus side, a few days work will bring the plot up to scratch and there are artichokes, apple trees, blackcurrants, raspberries and the biggest strawberries I've ever seen. A giant patch of rosemary and purple sage, plus feverfew, mallow and a huge blue hydrangea shrub will give me some cut flowers ... and there's a shed (which needs tidying), a bench, a water butt and a nearby tap!  It's all very very joyful. Little old plot sharer me.  Fab.

Fruit and flowers on the plot.  The cherry tree is Sunburst; next year it will be netted and should provide more than just one cherry! 



21 comments:

  1. That looks fabulous Caro! Pigeons & pests are at every allotment. I tried to accept that a certain amount of crops would be pinched by pests, then it wasn't so disheartening!

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    1. Thanks, Jill. I hardly have to net anything here (apart from keeping foxes and cats off the veg beds) so I have a lot to learn! I think sowing and planting extra is going to be the way to go for me also.

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  2. Oh how exciting! I'm absolutely thrilled for you, it looks like a gorgeous plot, and a brilliant site. I always love to wander round our site and see what everyone else's plots are like. I shall look forward to seeing your progress. CJ xx

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    1. Thanks CJ; yes, it is very exciting! Some of the other plots are so fabulous and groaning with produce - usually the plots that have been well maintained and used over many years. I'll be posting more on the plots without doubt! C xx

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  3. As Jill says there are pigeons and slugs and weeds and all the other paraphernalia on all allotments. At least you haven't had a totally overgrown allotment to start on which tends to happen on our site as the council are so slow to re-allocate plots

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    1. I know, what a relief. I was told that the plot was full of weeds so was pleasantly surprised when I turned up. There are a few plots which don't seem to have been worked this year so I'm sure the problem of slow allocation is universal - not good when there's a long waiting list!

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  4. What a gorgeous allotment and great to be helping out rather than starting entirely from scratch. My tip is to buy a role of flexible but sturdy plastic piping from Tool Station to make protective hoops for crops. (I found more in a skip). Saw them into 120 cm lengths, push into the soil and cover with a variety of different nets to protect seedlings and young plants. They can be re-positioned to make them higher as crops grow.

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    1. I think starting from scratch would be slightly overwhelming as I already have a garden (or two!) to care for. Thanks for the tip, Sue. That's really useful information as I've noted that all the good plots have covered their fruit and brassicas already.

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  5. Your new plot looks fabulous, what a joy! I can see you being very happy there and shall look forward to seeing all your lovely fruit and veg in due course.

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    1. It is very joyful, Pauline! The plots are so quiet in the evening (in fact, in the day as well); it's a lovely place to sit and relax and there are parakeets which fly into the large trees at the top of the site as the plot holder there feeds them. I'm looking forward to spending more time there, away from the flats where I live.

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  6. Lucky you, it looks and sounds wonderful so happy plotting. Flighty xx

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    1. Thank you, Flighty. Lucky me, indeed. I'm very pleased to be joining the ranks of plotters! Cx

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  7. Oh my....how MARVELOUS! You certainly are lucky, and to have so much already established!You must be pleased to have got stuck in so quickly. What a lovely plot! Looking forward to following your progress.xxx

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    1. ... and it's not just that the plot is already established but the plot holder is very happy to give me free rein to make suggestions and grow what I want! She's a lovely lady so I feel I've made a friend as well.

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  8. Oh how exciting Caro! I'm so pleased for you. It looks like a plot that has been cherished over the years. An allotment without slugs, pigeons, rabbits etc. would be quite disconcerting. I like the idea of a seed swap box and may borrow it for our site. Have fun in your new patch of earth.

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    1. There's lots of long grass so I'm surprised that there aren't more slow worms to eat up the slugs. And I asked about hedgehogs; apparently there are only a few sightings which is a shame. The seed swap box is a lovely idea - pleased that this has inspired you with an idea for your own site! C x

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  9. Caro, it looks wonderful. Enjoy. Simone

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  10. What an exciting opportunity, it will keep you busy but it will be wonderful joining that allotment community. It is lovely that you will be helping Doreen to keep her allotment going, it must be such a part of her life having been there for so long. Sarah x

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  11. Wow, that sounds like a lovely place and a lovely arrangement. Happy growing together!

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  12. How absolutely wonderful, such a lovely spot in which to battle bindweed and brambles! And you become part of the history of the plot and the partnership that gardened there together for so long. Yes, lots of hard work, but still, absolutely wonderful. Enjoy!

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  13. Oh that's brilliant news Caro. A win win for everyone. I love the area around Hampstead. I'm thinking Fenton House, Keats' House, the Heath, the views ... Lucky you and lucky Doreen to have you to help. Good luck!

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Caro x

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