Long before I had a flowering plot to develop (and there is still a way to go with that), I was given half an allotment a short walk from where I live in the suburbs just outside an ancient and beautiful university city. The allotments themselves are owned by an ancient and beautiful college, but they are run with iron determination and precision by the Committee – a group of volunteers. At that time my children were small, but my ambitions and optimism were huge and I wanted more space to realise my plans for homegrown fruit and vegetables. I imagined an abundant plot with rows of healthy vegetables: peas, climbing beans and tomatoes for a start.
On garden visits and holidays, I have always looked forward to examining the vegetable gardens and orchards, looking at their order and beauty and bounty and thinking about how to use the ideas myself. The loveliness of small plots in Spain heavy with tomatoes, beans and lemons – often little spaces just glimpsed on a walk – have given almost as much pleasure as the fruit and vegetable gardens in grander places such as Greys Court where I would like to copy just about every idea I see.
The reality of having an allotment at the same time as a full time job, with growing children morphing into teenagers and a busy partner, has been much more of a challenge than I had thought. And it continues to be more than ten years on. Admittedly, I took on another section so I now have three quarters of a plot, but even that doesn’t quite explain why I am still battling. I haven’t had a dreaded letter giving me an eviction warning, but I have had years of dark looks. This year is the one in which I am aiming to finally make it all work: to get it organised and systematic and productive. If not, then it will be time to let someone else take on the battle. I am hoping that keeping an account of how this goes might help me to stay on track.