Behind the scenes at Moss Park Allotments in Stretford
PUBLISHED: 00:00 12 December 2018
These stunning allotments used to be the corporation dump. Linda Viney meets the dedicated team who turned an eyesore into a sight for sore eyes.
They have the sort of double herbaceous border that wouldn’t look out of place in the grounds of a great mansion, yet here I was visiting allotments.
One of the rules for the award-winning Moss Park Allotments in Stretford is that anyone with a plot flanking the main wide grass pathway has to edge it with a flower border making a colourful welcome. All the plots are well kept and during my visit I realised how much you can learn from this band of enthusiastic gardeners who were only too happy to show me their patches.
I was met by allotments secretary Alison Sterlini and I soon spotted a group of allotment holders sitting at a table chatting merrily, drinking tea and eating scones. I did wonder if all this was for my benefit but was assured not as I joined them, and was tempted with a delicious scone.
It was lovely to see children playing and hearing their laughter as I found out about the site. When the allotment society was asked to move here it was with reservations as it had been the Trafford Tip. However, around 1,000 tons of top soil was imported to make sure it would be possible to grow plants. There are 35 full plots with 54 plot holders as some have been divided. Their youngest member is only 19.
Dragging myself away from the scones, I started looking round and found there were fewer weeds here than my garden. Each plot is individual, some with flowers, some purely vegetables and others mixed, plus there was plenty of fresh fruit, raspberries and strawberries.
‘We hold a s**t shovelling day when the communal manure arrives,’ Alison pointed out with a smile. No wonder the plots look great, but I’m not the only one who thinks so. They have won many accolades – the Best Site in Trafford, Best Site in Stretford, Best Site in the North West by the The North West Counties Allotment Association and the site has a Royal Horticultural Society Level 5 outstanding certificate.
Alison took me down ‘Pumpkin Walk’ and I found Lynn whose pumpkin was resting on a chair, leaving her to stand. Another was supported with a chain to keep it off the ground. We then moved towards the far end which is a shady area needing different attention. Three children popped out eager to show their mother a snail. In her plot she has just made a rockery and she had also made a bug hotel to interest the children and now have followed suit. These children will hopefully have their own allotments in the future.
As we zig-zaged through the plots I found Graham and Carol relaxing and enjoying the sun before recharging their batteries to start gardening again. However Graham got up as he was keen to show me his large ‘Marmande’ tomatoes (a continental variety with large, irregular fruits, firm flesh, distinctive flavour and few seeds) growing in his greenhouse.
Liz Bazley with freshly baked scones
A tall sunflower stretching to the sky
‘Marmande’ tomatoes grown by Graham
Mixed planting iun the allotment borders
Gardeners enjoy a breather and a chat with tea and scones
Ann with her beautiful begonias
Lynn's large pumpkin takes a rest
Anwen, Douglas and Marnie learning to garden in their mother’s plot
Looking down one of the herbaceous borders at the entrance
Artistic sign atf one of the plots
‘It is the first time I have tried these and I’m really pleased with how they’ve done,’ he explained. I spotted he grew French Marigolds as companion planting to help protect them from bugs. Meanwhile, chairman Dave Clancy was busy digging his potatoes.
There is a communal plot for the cafe and a small area with herbs for growers to help themselves – this place certainly has a great vibe and everyone is willing to help others. When anyone retires or moves they are made lifetime members keeping their link with the society. They also hold their own horticultural show at the beginning of September with external judges marking the entrants. It is a day of great fun but quite competitive. Throughout the season any spare produce is given to those in need.
Arriving back to the patio area I peered into the shop which had been created from two garages which were donated 20 years ago. The committee buys in bulk and gardeners can purchase seeds, compost, plant feed and slug repellent. The noticeboard is covered with photographs of their events and awards and the covered patio area is where Ann shows off her colourful begonia-filled hanging baskets.
In 1999 Paul Fletcher built their clubhouse which resembles a pub and is aptly named ‘Fletcher’s Rest’. The camaraderie between the members is heart warming and, yes, running an allotment may be hard but it’s very rewarding – from the produce to the friendships. They also hold charity open days where you can easily spend a day picking up tips, and sampling the tea and cakes.