Thursday, 6 September 2012

The Allotment Year

This year has not been an easy year for us allotmenteers. Firstly we had the discord with the council over their proposal to raise the rents for the plots to bring us in line with privately run allotment sites. Rather unfair as privately run sites are secure - we have no security; they have proper facilities such as toilets amongst other things - whereas we have to use a bucket!!

A clay oven and barbecue area for use by plot holders in the nearby allotments privately run by the National Trust

This caused relations between the council and we plot holders to become fraught and a heated meeting was held between council members and the allotment committee. In the end a slight compromise was reached, but some plot holders still felt aggrieved with the council's stance and thus the season started off on a sour note.

Entrance to the plot from Sweet Pea Lane

The second disheartening issue was the weather. After a glorious week at the end of May, so came the rain....

and it rained.....

and it rained......

and it rained......

and it rained......

and it rained......

and it rained some more.

The plots became washed out; sheds floated; paths made up of bark chippings ended up in a soggy pile at the bottom of the slope

Path covered with wheelbarrow loads of Bark chippings before the rain washed them away

and worse was that the bees stayed in their hives (who can blame them?) and therefore no pollination took place - meaning no apples! 

(Correction - two apples!)

The wet conditions led to plot holders tending their plots less frequently with the result that the weeds flourished and thrived, gleefully shaking their seed heads and scattering them on the wind across all the plots.

With the rain came blight! Potato crops throughout the whole site were obliterated overnight - even those that had been sprayed suffered. After the blow of losing our entire potato crops the blight infestation continued - attacking the tomatoes in the greenhouse.

Then came the wildlife. My carefully planted sweetcorn and lettuces were decimated in one night by a hungry rabbit; 

A well fed rabbit hopping happily through the plot

little piles of neatly stacked strawberries appeared mysteriously with their seeds missing - I later learnt this was down to mice! The woodpigeons launched an attack upon the brassicas; blackbirds and other songbirds feasted on the berries and squirrels darted merrily up and down the paths gobbling up anything that took their fancy.

Songbirds sing sweetly in the hawthorn hedge, whilst eyeing up the berries in the plot below

Despite the weather and the wildlife we battled on, and August saw our crops ripening and maturing - if not as good as previous years, there was still some reward for the fruits of our labours.

Red Onions hanging up to dry

The rhubarb was magnificent

The thornless blackberries were in abundance

Garlic Bulbs drying

Any surplus produce was as always passed on to other plot holders and shared amongst family and friends. Until that is................................


It began at the far end of the site. A large quantity of rhubarb - (all of one plot holders crop) was cut down and taken away from one plot; another plot had their entire crop of parsnips and carrots taken - and to confound it all - the thieves topped and tailed them then and there! Rather sinisterly the Professor discovered that his sweetcorn had been sampled, but due to the fact that it wasn't fully ripened the thieves had discarded the sample - this did not auger well; the crop had merely been left for the corn to ripen after which the thieves would return.

Cabbages, beetroot, turnips, onions, leeks, more parsnips and more carrots - the plots were plundered, the produce stripped and all that was left were neat piles of cut off leaves. At first I escaped the initial raids and then one afternoon as I stood at the gate, I noticed my Rosemary bushes........

or rather.........

my missing Rosemary bushes!

Two mature Rosemary bushes flanking the path were chopped right to the ground; there was not a pick of Rosemary left! The beautiful creeping thyme below the bushes was also massacred, with huge chunks torn ruthlessly away. At the bottom of the plot my beetroot had caught the eye of the looters - however it obviously was not yet of a high enough standard and so the few that had been examined were simply discarded without a thought. My runner beans were hacked without any regard for the crisp lettuces below the runner bean supports, which were trampled and ruined to an extent that even the rabbit would find them unappetising.

It emerged that other neighbouring plots had been pillaged, amongst them the one belonging to Mr Production who was the victim of his own worthy success. His plot which he works daily for hours at a time, with crops of the highest quality and large quantities was ransacked, leaving once again only the evidence of people who have considerable expertise in the picking of market gardening produce.

Happily the thieves left his glorious Hollyhocks that originated in Vaux Sur Mer

These thieves are not casual vandals or locals who fancy a few bits of fruit and veg with their dinner, or kids scrumping apples; these raids are organised crime, carried out by people who know how to harvest fruit and veg proficiently. 

Perhaps our produce is being sold to restaurants or at markets? I doubt whether the thieves ate all of one plot holders hundred and fifty looted beetroot by themselves! We don't know, but what we do know is that whoever the perpetrators are have no consciences or respect for our society. They do not care about honesty or that all the work, time and money over the past year put into lovingly tending our crops on our plots has just been for nothing.     

The thieves show total disregard for people working together growing their own fruit and veg and getting back to Nature; some whose plot is a release for them from the burdens that life can throw at us all. They are despicable. The police have been notified and are patrolling the area but it has left our little community feeling sickened and downhearted. I think it immanently preferable that if we, our friends and family cannot benefit from all our hard work then the birds, the squirrels and yes even the hungry rabbit partake of our crops rather than these thieves.

I wonder if any other plot-holders at different sites or even gardeners have been experiencing theft on this scale recently? If you know of any please do tell me.


No comments: