Sunday, 10 April 2016

Digging Towards Victory.

If I'm honest I was never really expecting to be writing this post this year. I'd almost dealt with the fact that I was going to spend probably at least a year without an allotment and I thought I'd made peace with that idea. I thought with my garden, the city wide Incredible Edible Bristol plots and the occasional visit to friends allotments, that I'd be fine without a site of my own. In fact very occasionally I wondered if I'd ever have my own allotment again.
And then I got a phone call.
"Hello, we'd like to show you the empty plots at the site of your choice. Tomorrow if you're about. At 1 if that suits? We think we have the perfect plot for you".
And that was it. Suddenly I realised it felt like Christmas Eve when you're a child, and that it was pointless trying to hide the excitement. My legs felt fizzy. In my head I was planning planting schemes. I caught myself going through my seed boxes, plotting. 
Now I must tell you a bit about the site. It's in South Bristol, where we now live, a 10 minute cycle from home. It is situated at the northern side of one of the Northern Slopes and has spectacular views across the city, to the suspension bridge and Cliftonwood's amazing colourful houses. It's peaceful, quiet, with just the sound of birdsong and distant traffic, and it's a site I know well as it has my favourite community garden on it. The Lets Grow Allotment is run by Knowle West Health Association, and it's chief gardener is Steve Griffiths, who was last years BBC Bristol Food Hero. It's an exemplary space that I'll write about more as time ticks on.

But also there is the Urban Retreat, run by Ben Carpenter of Youth Moves who, with his crew of local young people, has constructed a round house, planted an orchard and willow to improve drainage, built an amphitheatre and paths across the site, and recently added a polytunnel for growing as well as raised beds. It's an extraordinary space that is helping young people in our area reconnect with nature and food whilst having fun with their friends. 
So now you can see why I had my sights set on this space!! 

What I was never expecting was to be offered a plot that is ready to go, just waiting for seeds to be sown, and plants to be planted. And yet we arrived and were shown to No 6, and were told that we could have a full plot and that this perfect space was there for us if we wanted it. Apart from the occasional tussock of grass the front half is completely ready, and today I have planted out broad beans and sown spinach and rocket. The back half needs a little bit more work but it's very superficial weeding and tidying, and indeed I cleared one bed today so I could plant a little gooseberry bush we bought. 
And so here I am, back in my comfortable guise as an allotment holder, having realised a few things. I hadn't really considered that anything was particularly missing over the last few months, but the excitement of that call made me realise that the allotment sized hole was actually huge and gaping. With my deep belief that growing and gardening are good for both body and soul, and in my efforts to get that across to others, I had forgotten that I need that too. It's part of what makes me who I am and whole. 
But the peace of this site, the warm and generous welcomes and the offers of support from people who I know will be new friends, has also made me think. The last few months at our old site was heinous. Apart from thefts and torn friendships over the occupation of the land, the noise of diggers and barking of security dogs for months on end was emotionally draining as we watched the land be torn apart. My new plot is calm and peaceful, a million miles from the despair and anxiety caused by the building of that crazy road and bridge. But the juxtaposition of the two sites, both very clear in my head, makes me realise that we need to understand that all our sites could be at risk and that we must be prepared to fight for them if we need to. And why? 
Because allotments are a part of the British psyche. 
Because we are a nation of gardeners. 
Because we must protect our green and pleasant land and continue to dig for victory!!


  1. What a happy ending to this chapter of your story, which I've been following from afar. Here's to a wonderful new chapter for you at 6a.

  2. Lovely to see you already so settled in your new plot. Sounds like an amazing place. Only hope me and the family are as settled in our half plot (all that you are allocated here in Hertfordshire) soon. I'm so excited to finally have somewhere to grow and experiment after so many years waiting. :-)

    1. Normally you can only have half a plot here too but because this is a relocation really, rather than a new plot, they've allowed me a whole one!! Hope all goes well. x

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  4. I'm very happy for you! So nice that it is on familiar territory too - you'll have lots of friendly plot-neighbours to talk to.

  5. What a result! Am really pleased for you, it sounds perfect.

  6. Ah deep deep joy. And I mean deep. gardening and being close to nature and the seasonal changes is so much a part of our identity. It must have felt like coming home.

  7. Welcome to Springfield Sara, it is really an amazing place. I will come say hello next time I'm there...and hopefully our kids won't spoil your peace and quiet!!
    Ruth (plot 1a and 2a).

  8. So happy for you Sara...The drive to garden and grow things is very deep I think, in England of course, (your green and pleasant land), but also within all of us, around the world. Totally agree we must do everything we can to makes sure allotments (we call them community gardens in Canada) are supported and expanded upon. As cities become more crowded, with more people not having a private garden, these places can grow food, community, and as you note, a deep sense of connection with nature for younger people. Thanks for sharing...Hope to hear more about your new garden as you settle in : )