|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!|