This Blessed Plot

Take a stroll down to the village allotments and eavesdrop on a conversation between two or three of the plot holders. These horny handed, sunburned toilers will drop their spades from time to time to compare notes. You will discover that life on the allotments is characterised by a long “indeed, never ending,) series of disasters.

The weather has been too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry or some devastating of these conditions. At least one late frost took its toll (as usual) and the recent strong wind wiped out half of the tender seedlings. However, this is not all that you will hear.

The greenfly is the worst in living memory. the blackfly has “ruined” the runner bean crop and much additional heartache has been caused by cutworms, wireworm, millipedes, leatherjackets, earwigs, carrotfly onion fly and whitefly Possibly, you might hear that the pea and bean weevil is a little less terrible this year but this has been made up for by pea thrips which has reduced the crop by at least half (again)

Downy mildew is again endemic as is powdery mildew,s black rot, chocolate spot, root rot, halo blight, heart rot and parsnip canker. The caterpillars have not appeared yet, but they will and slugs, snails and pigeons are gathering their forces for another assault.

You will hear that to make the gardener’s life even more trying the price of seed has gone up again to a level where it is a national disgrace some would say an international disgrace’ High prices have combined with the lowest germination rates that anyone has ever experienced to create a situation demanding the intervention of the government which., of course, could not care less.

So, you may ask yourself why, in spite of all these problems, do these people soldier on year after year in what seems to be a hopeless struggle against nature and horticultural suppliers not to mention dogs, cats. rabbits, vandals and thieves. The answer lies in part on the dining tables of the toilers. Runner beans cooked within an hour of picking taste like runner beans. A crisp lettuce which has not been on a supermarket shelf for several days is a real pleasure and tomatoes ripened on the vine are not only rich in vitamins but actually smell and taste like tomatoes.

The allotment gardener also knows what has happened to his produce. He or she can choose to grow organically and is not obliged to drench the vegetables in chemicals. Food can be enjoyed without an admixture of pesticides. fungicides, herbicides, preservatives or any other poisons.

But, this is not all. Consider the poor old Chalfont St. Peter commuter who struggles every day to London or elsewhere to earn a crust. He or she is subject to overcrowded trains, traffic jams, incessant ‘phone calls, heartless if not idiotic bosses, pointless meetings which go on and on, parking problems. deadlines, targets, budgets you name it! This all adds tip to frustration stress and an early death when heart disease kicks in.

The allotments offer a remedy. Nothing is more therapeutic than a few hours on the weekend with a fork or hoe. No one will bother you. No telephones, no urgent c malls, no deadlines, just you and the greenfly gaining some healthy exercise.

You will also find that your fellow gardeners are a friendly bunch. Someone will water your beans when you are away on your summer holiday, advice is freely given and if there is something that you did not grow (or failed to grow) someone with a good crop will say “help yourself to mine”. Equally therapeutic is the aforementioned complaining!

A good moan about the bugs and the fungi adds something to life and none of your gardening colleagues will disagree with anything you say.

There have been allotments in the village since the 19th century and they have much exercised the Parish Council over the years.

For example Mr H.J.Mayo caused some alarm ill April 1918 when he dug up the footpath in the Love’s Delight allotments and in the same year another tenant who kept pigs on his plot was told to grow more crops.

In December 1924 gentlemen by the name of Jennings and Croft were ordered to quit huts on the allotments used as dwellings!

Stray animals have been a problem for many years in 1919 a horse owner was told that his horse would be impounded if he did not keep it under control and in 1927 a flock of sheep caused considerable damage. The owner of the sheep agreed to pay compensation but a year later the
council was receiving complaints that no money had be n forthcoming!

During the 1920’s a man would appear each summer from the London direction with a horse and cart. He would fill the cart with horse radish growing wild on the borders of the allotments. The horse radish still grows on the path edges and can be recommended for its flavour!

The village school at one time had an allotment plot where boys who would leave school at fourteen were taught the rudiments of vegetable growing. This plot is to be seen today within the hawthorn hedge at the corner of the Love’s Delight allotments where it is cultivated by some boys a little older than fourteen. However, one or two of them may have learned their skills there in their early teens.

Why not take an allotment and carve yourself a small spot in village history? It’s cheap and rewarding.