Mythop Road Allotments Association - the Lytham club with a waiting list to rival Eton
PUBLISHED: 10:16 13 September 2012 | UPDATED: 21:51 20 February 2013
As we start to harvest our veg patches, Jenny Rudd joins friends and family who have the gardening bug
An international judge stood in the corner of this allotment and was quite overwhelmed at the view. Jonathan Cass and I are standing on a slope and looking over the patches of lovingly tended vegetables, fruit and trees, dotted with evening sun and punctuated with sheds, greenhouses and chairs.
Mythop Road Allotments Association in Lytham is down an easy-to-miss track and sandwiched between the YMCA, the railway tracks and a housing estate. Once there, its an oasis of green calm.
Wandering round, each plot belies quirks of the owners character. One is regimented and absolutely pristine - ranks of uniform plants grow in perfect rows, pathways are swept and theres not a weed in sight. Another has a recycling project in one corner, a ramshackle but highly functional greenhouse in another and plants and flowers intermingled over the plot in beautiful, abundant chaos.
We like people to grow exactly what they please, flowers, food, trees and grass but we do conduct inspections every few months and if a plot isnt being tended, we send a letter to the owner, says Jonathan, the association chairman.
If it continues, we take the plot off them and hand it to the next person on the waiting list which is about 6 years long at the moment.
Philip Stringer and his 87-year-old mother, Cicely, have looked after their family allotment for over 50 years.
After the war and the end of rationing, interest in the allotments declined, she says. The place was in a terrible state. At one stage there were only three of us here and the middle was just a huge tangle of brambles which we tried to burn down to clear. The peat underneath the soil caught fire and it took a few weeks and a spell of bad weather for it to finally go out!
That wasnt the only excitement. We arent allowed to keep livestock but in the 70s, next to the allotments some wild fowlers hatched and reared ducklings to be set free over the marshes for hunting. One year a fire started in the hut where the ducklings slept and the top of a gas cylinder popped off, sending flames high into the sky.
Things are more sedate these days. Special dispensation has been granted to Charlie Greenhill to keep bees. It took a couple of years to build the bees up but last year there was so much honey we were able to give away and sell surplus. Everyone here seems happy - for their honey as well as the pollination.
Many enjoy the exercise and socialising there is a wonderful ethos of sharing and there are a few huts around to leave surplus produce for Food Co, an initiative pioneered by Christine Miller a council worker with an allotment. They distribute the food to those struggling financially on the Fylde. Meanwhile, the manure comes from the horses along Blackpool, spare pallets and odds and ends are swapped and there is barely a shred of waste anywhere. Everything is re-used or re-cycled.
As well as the retirees, there are a growing number of families applying for plots. Melanie Clarkson often takes her seven-year-old daughter. Its a lovely place to escape to after work and I tend to take Florence a couple of times a week depending on the weather, she says. When we got our first plot six years ago there werent many children to be seen but now there are quite a few families.
Florence has her own raised bed to grow flowers, vegetables and herbs but mainly spends her time catching worms and building snail sanctuaries! Sometimes she brings friends down after school and they build dens and sow seeds. It makes a nice change from playing computer games or watching TV.
Its true that children are much more inclined to eat vegetables that theyve helped to grow. Florence hates peas with a passion but will happily eat the ones we grow straight from the pods. The same goes for lettuce and kale, although she draws the line at turnips. I hope that having the allotment in helps her to understand where the food she eats comes from but mostly that it encourages her to enjoy nature, playing outdoors and getting as muddy as she wants.
Many share the enjoyment of not only eating what they have grown but a strong feeling of wellbeing. No wonder there is such a waiting list.
Can you dig it?
A well managed allotment can produce in the region of 1,500 worth of fruit and veg a year. With rents running at between 25 and 100, that represents quite a saving on your household food bill even taking into account seeds and tools. And its fresher than youll find in a supermarket.
Not only is the food good for you , but so too is the exercise. Just 30 minutes of gardening on your allotment can burn around 150 calories, the same as a session of low impact aerobics. Another benefit is the company. A third of people surveyed recently said socialising was one of the main attractions of having an allotment.
If you would like to have your own plot, contact your local council or log onto the website of the National Allotment Society www.nsalg.org.uk.