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Wellington Fields Allotments - Hixon.


Plough Field Allotments at Amerton

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By Mrs FM

Unusual & Old
Fashioned Fruit

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Alan J Hartley



Abandoned Plots.

To some people having an Allotment is almost seen as a Status Symbol because it is the “Thing To Do,” with all of the environmental issues at the front of everybody’s minds these days. What could be better than growing your own vegetables with all of us being told to cut down on the “Food Miles,” and of course home grown food couldn’t be healthier with all of the fuss about Pesticides and other chemicals that can be found on our food. Unfortunately, for many, the reality is not as easy as that with a lot of hard work needed to be put into a Plot regularly to produce good and worthwhile crops. Every year we have a few plot holders who voluntarily give up their Plots because they come to accept that they can’t manage them. When this happens vacant Plots are soon snapped up, as, like many other Allotments, we have a waiting list, although ours is usually quite small and with the natural turnover, prospective Plot Holders don’t usually have to wait for long to get a Plot. There are horror stories of some sites having waiting lists that you have to be on for 10 years before you get to the top of the list and get your Plot. However, what is also true of most sites, including ours, is that most plots that are surrendered, are a little untidy to say the least. Even worse are the Plots that have been totally abandoned and the Committee have to persuade Plot Holders to give them up. Unlike many other Allotment sites around the Country, our Site is privately owned and run by a small Committee of Volunteers who have to Police the site ourselves without any outside assistance.

It is not often that we have to reclaim a plot, but this year we did after the Plot holder had not properly worked his Plot for some time due to his difficult personal circumstances. Action was deemed necessary because there were complaints from other Plot Holders about the State of it.
I suppose part of the problem is that although the Annual Rent for a plot seems to be a lot to a Pensioner on limited means, to a working man, on a decent wage, the rent that he has to pay is “Peanuts.” It is not even the price of one night out, a trip to watch a Football Match, or a trip to a Concert. So, little consideration is given to their plot once they have lost interest in it.
Anyway, the Plot Holder agreed to vacate his Plot and said that he would clear it when he could, as per the Rental Agreement. However, at a recent Committee Meeting, we decided that because others were waiting for a plot, and we felt that there was some urgency, we would clear the Rubbish off the Plot for him, before trying to let it. I volunteered, along with one or two others, and the next day we got stuck into it. It looked truly awful covered in lots of wooden planking for edges, Pallets, Slabs, Ground Cover Membrane that had been penetrated by weeds all over, and a number of large, metal framed, plastic, Chemical Containers with their tops cut off as are sometimes seen on TV being used for making, high, industrial architecture type, raised Beds. The Containers stood somewhere over 3 feet high and were the size of a Pallet. Each one must have contained something like half a ton of soil, (full of weeds) that needed to be emptied and moved. (If they had been emptied after a wet spell, they would have been a lot heavier still!)

To cut a long story short, one of the Committee member’s Husbands turned up armed with some 6 feet long metal bars that we used to lever up, and with wooden wedges, turnover the Tubs. The Spoil that came out, came out in one solid lump like some giant piece of moulded concrete. The soil had dried rock hard and came out retaining the shape of the Tubs and of the channelling at the bottom of them. It was then quite a job to break up the giant lumps of soil so that they could be spread out. That in itself took some doing, trying to get the Spade in to split them. A lot of people try to use a Shovel for digging instead of just “Shovelling,” but that is what the straight blade of a Spade is designed for, cutting, and with the right tool for the job it didn’t take too long. With a little help from one, or two other Plot Holders, I had moved all of the Boarding, along with Pegs, the Slabs, and most of the Membrane beforehand so that gave us a clear area to tip over the Tubs and to spread the soil. Rain was forecast a day, or two later, so that, we thought, was quite opportune because it might soften the compacted soil a bit.
There had been a lot of Planking, but that hadn’t taken much effort to move and with some help it was redistributed around the site to get used again. I had a number of the Slabs to add to my Pathways on my Plots which I thought was a fair payment for doing some of the work as well as a number of Bamboo Canes that had been unearthed and that were also re-distributed. In the true spirit of Allotment Gardening we tried to recycle and re-use as much of the cleared material as possible and with that in mind the wooden Pallets went to another Plot Holder who wanted to re-build her Compost Heap. Indeed I even managed to save one large piece of Membrane that was still in good shape and gave it to yet another plot Holder. Even the big, metal framed, plastic Tubs were taken away by the local Farmer to be recycled. I think Farms use them for cattle feeders, storage and that sort of thing. I have seen them stacked up in one, or two, Farm Yards, elsewhere. The Plot Holder who had vacated the plot, did say that he was going to collect his tools though.

At the end of the day, the Plot that had looked absolutely appalling, had been totally cleared and looked like a new Plot, weed free and ready for any Plot Holder, with just a few hours work. It was almost a clear patch of bare Soil, (apart from a lovely Thornless Blackberry and large Rhubarb,) because the Membrane had done its work and kept it pretty clear underneath of weeds and those on the top of the membrane had been pulled up with it. However, it was still compacted soil from being covered for about 3, or 4 years and would take some digging! But at least it looked good and more inviting!


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