It has been one full year since we received the keys to our new allotment. It was bittersweet. After being evicted from Farm terrace, part of the legal requirement was to offer us a new plot on a new site. “Like for Like” that phrase will stick with me forever. In the end six of us took plots on the second nearest site of Hollywell allotments. It is about a 20 minute walk from our house whereas Farm Terrace was a 5 minute walk and was an old sewage farm so the quality and indeed general appeal was not ‘like for like’. However for the purpose of this blog I am not going to focus on the negative but instead the positive. I have had too many years of negative.
We went to look around the new site on a cold winter’s morning. It was not inspirational but then hardly any allotments are at that time of year! We talked about it and decided that we would take over an area of wasteland, thick with brambles and overgrown weeds so that we would be able to be together. The council would have to rotovate the ground and replace everything we had as part of the ‘relocation’ so at least we knew that we wouldn’t have to clear the plots. This did not make us popular with other plot holders as usually when you take on a plot it is your responsibility to get rid of anything unwanted.
This work was done and the plots were measured out. Those who had (and still wanted) 10 poles or 20 got them. We had 5 and we are happy with 5. The highlight for me was a brand new shed! At Farm terrace we had an enchanting home-made shed which had been left by the previous tenant. But for all its charm it was rat infested and falling apart! The shed the council had to give us is brand new (another big faux pas for other allotment folk) and big enough for the whole family to shelter from the rain in!
Because the quality of the soil at Farm terrace had been so good they also had to give us a lot of fertilizer. However this was dumped at the end of the allotment site and we had to organise ourselves to transport it to the new plots before anyone else could help themselves. This was done by wheel barrow load for load and took days.
I felt completely apathetic to the whole move. I can only liken it to having to have a pet dog put to sleep only to be given a new pup. Yes, it’s lovely and yes you are so ‘lucky’ but you don’t want the new puppy you want your old beloved dog. I felt hurt and completely unappreciative however for the sake of my family and friends I got on with it.
Now starting a new plot all over again is bloody hard work even with the ‘help’ we had but in our favour we had years of gardening experience and most importantly we had each other and that made it easier. We got to work quickly as a united group helping each other. Our first job was to put in the (now dilapidated) raised beds we brought with us from farm Terrace. I was also able to create a flower bed which I had always meant to get round
With the help of our friends we put in a patio in front of the shed and created space to sit and have a chat and a drink! We also made some temporary beds and began putting in plants and seedlings. My husband and I both work and could only spare weekends and the occasional morning or evening but I am proud of what we achieved.
Other ex Farm terrace plot holders were similar to us and worked about 50% of their plots others managed to work almost all of theirs again helped by the fact we were all in the same position and we could help each other. Thanks to Roger who is next to us I got my first ever harvest of peas!
The kids found it difficult at first. whereas before they had basically had the run of Farm terrace and knew it like the back of their hand they too had to start afresh and unfortunately they got shouted at a couple of times by other plot holders who understandably did not appreciate them on their plots!
Even I have found making new friends on the new site difficult. I had no enthusiasm left in me and was not in the mood to be happy and positive. Like most allotments our new one does not have an association and despite the desperate need it is often difficult to convince people. Allotments need an association because without one you cannot legally fight any threat of a land grab and, as we found out, an association brings people together even if the leg work can be difficult to begin with. Organising this is on my list of jobs for this next year.
The best thing about the new plot was that for the first time in 5 years we can plan and make arrangements for the future, It was never worth investing neither time or money in Farm terrace as we never knew if and when we could lose it. The luxury of being able to build something knowing it can be improved and bettered in the future is priceless.
In the middle of the summer we organised and held our first Allotment gathering and we invited past Farm terrace plot holders and supporters of our fight. It was a lovely day.
We have all named our plots Farm terrace Corner so that the name Farm terrace will never be forgotten. We regularly meet up there and have started a Wednesday coffee morning and have been able to encourage friends and neighbours to take plots on the site.
Now a year on I do feel positive about the new plot and have grown to love it as I did our last plot. We are lucky to have it and each other and gradually I have reduced the amount of times that I compare it (unfavourably) to Farm terrace. The kids feel like its home now and the added bonus of new children to play with is a luxury Farm terrace could not offer them.
I will never forgive Dorothy Thornhill and her Lib Dem Council for orchestrating and overseeing the destruction and abandonment of Farm Terrace Allotments. The people in that, my, local area who either live in small terraced houses or flats will never be able to grow food there. It will be a car park.
But now it is time to think about myself and to think about the future. That said I am aware that we are not safe from land grabbers. That no allotment site is. But prevention is the best medicine and if we can build a community here, create an association and make sure all the plots are worked it will be much harder to lose this plot.