Last year was hard. Leading on the one hand on a high profile Bristol European Green Capital project with Incredible Edible Bristol that was set to increase the visibility of food growing in the city whilst watching the environmental devastation of the allotment land I had taken on and loved was very tricky to reconcile in my own mind, and was something I struggled with on a daily basis. Seeing the diggers and bulldozers on that precious Grade 1 BMV (Best and Most Versatile) soil broke my heart as did the scenes of destruction when the land began to be torn apart. Watching the bulldozers taking out the wildflower meadow at Feed Bristol was heartwrenching and seeing the hedges behind the plot taken out in peak nesting time knowing that they were home to not just birds, but invertebrates and mammals whose populations will take decades to recover if they ever do, was like watching a horror movie.
And then, just as we thought it was all over, the work on the hillside opposite began. Trees obliterated, grassland removed, huge swathes of beautiful soil prepared for concreting. I saw this on a cold, grey day in December and sat in the greenhouse and sobbed. Sobbed great big tears of sorrow and loathing for a world in which, on one hand we are celebrating the outcomes of the COP in Paris and yet allowing this raping of our lands to continue in the name of progress and profit.
Ecocide. Look it up. It's a thing and it's happening worldwide.
Whilst here in Bristol we see huge tracts of land including the BMV soils of the Blue Finger, common land, ancient woodlands and more disposed of for the sake of a bus route that is already being called a white elephant by many, in Sheffield they are removing street trees for health and safety reasons. Perfectly fine specimens being razed to the ground rather than being looked after for their pollution controlling properties, not to mention the amount of wildlife they will support. Even if they are replaced it will take decades for new specimens to recover the biodiversity lost by the culling of these trees.
So on a personal level I have had to make difficult decisions. Moving helped those decisions but in all honesty even if I had moved far away in normal circumstances I would never even have considered giving up that piece of rich and fertile land. But the heartbreak and the broken community of allotment holders that was creating became too much. The black dog was literally sitting on my chest taking up all my time and being at the land became a hideous dark time when I knew I ought to be there but could't get away fast enough. There was constant bad feeling between allotment holders who couldn't see past the occupation of the land, tools and plants were disappearing and then, as a final blow a whole raft of plants disappeared from my plot. And not just plants. My fuchsia that was given to me by Christopher Lloyd
All gone. Disappeared. Taken by someone who I assume was so greedy that they couldn't see what they were doing was wrong.
And so the final decision was made by that final blow. The allotment that I loved, lost sleep over, cried huge, sobbing tears over, has been handed back to the allotment team who have worked so hard to be the mediators in this dreadful battle.
Where I expected to be heartbroken, I am only relieved. A weight has been lifted and I can now begin to fight for the Blue Finger in a far more intelligent and thought led way, rather than emotionally and constantly on the verge of either tears or anger. My determination to continue to help and support that fight is no weaker, but my ability to do so is strengthened by making some distance.
And as one door closes another opens as those great folks at the allotment office are helping me find a new and closer site with a plot that I can call my own, which won't happen over night, but will happen in the nearish future.
In the meantime I am looking forward to starting growing in the garden of our new home, and carrying on creating growing spaces across this city on those pieces of land that are lost and unloved, inspiring people to begin growing their own food and connect with the earth. The journey continues........