: Find out how to live the good life with an allotment  ( 327 )

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Find out how to live the good life with an allotment
« : October 14, 2017, 04:36:31 PM »

Find out how to live the good life with an allotment
By Heather Large

There is said to be little more satisfying in the garden than growing your own fruit and vegetables.

Being able to plants seeds, watch them flourish and then eat the produce is the main reason why allotment holders take on a plot.

During the past decade there has been a rise in the number of people wanting to take more responsibility for the food on their plate.

Many people also get into gardening merely for the enjoyment and health benefits.

All year through the different seasons and whatever the weather, you will find keen gardeners at Penn Road Allotments in Wolverhampton tending to their plots.

Tucked away off one of the city's busiest routes, they enjoy the peace and quiet the site of more than three acres offers them.

The land, known as Bakersland, was bequeathed in 1938 for the sole purpose of allotments and has been used for this purpose ever since.

Now it's home to 67 plots with gardeners able to rent full, half and quarter-sized areas with rent ranging from £36 to £10 a year, including water and manure.

Group secretary and retired wood machinist Steve Wood, aged 67, has been tending to his allotment for 11 years.

Steve, who lives in Wombourne, had previously been growing veg at home but when the opportunity to have a plot arose, he jumped at it.

"I had turned one of the lawns at home over to vegetables but it was nice to be able to have more space. The plot was rough when I took it over so I had to start from scratch. I was digging up all sorts but I got stuck in.

"It is a lot of hard work, there is not getting away from it, but if you stick to it, it's worth it.

"Many people give up because they try to do too much and it can be quite soul-destroying clearing a plot and keeping on top of the weeds.

"But we find that if people stick it for 12 months, then they stay," he added.

Steve, who grows a range of produce including potatoes, runner beans, carrots, parsnips and tomatoes can be found at the allotments most days and during the main growing season he will devote more time to his crops.

"In the summer I'll be down here from 5.45am until 3pm. But I have a shed with a cooker in it so I'll start the day with a cup of tea and a bacon and egg sandwich and I'll sit and enjoy the peace and quiet - there is nothing better," he said.

He has been helped by his wife Sue, a retired Post Office worker who took on her own plot in April this year.

"I love being out in the fresh air, the exercise - it helps you to lose weight - and the companionship of the other allotment holders. There is someone here to chat to.

"It can be hard work but it's a very rewarding hobby. I'm really pleased with my celeriac crop - it's not something I've ever thought to buy before. That is one of the best things, you can try growing things you have never tried before. If you don't like it, you can try something else. I've had a good courgette crop this year too," says the 61-year-old.

Group chairman John Pugh, 69, worked for Wolverhampton Council for 47 years and oversaw the city's parks and green spaces.

But it was actually his grandson George, now aged 17, who first caught the allotment bug.

The engineering apprentice took on a half plot four years ago and loved spending time at the site.

When he struggled to juggle gardening with his school work, John, who lives in Penn, took over and has been there ever since.

His latest crops include runner beans, cabbage, broccoli and sprouts. "I just find it very calming and relaxing and it's very rewarding harvesting the produce.

The oldest allotment holder at Penn Road is 89-year-old retired factory worker Isiah McIntosh, known to everyone as Mac.

"When I was young if you didn't grow your own food, you didn't have anything to eat, that's why I do it.

"It gets me out of the house and I like to see everything grow. People will find it hard work but they should enjoy it," he said.

Retired council worker Josh Johnson has been at Penn Road for 10 years and works at his plot twice a week. "The best things are being outside and being so close to nature. I love the feel of my hands in the soil, it's so calming.

"Being able to cook and eat your own produce is so satisfying. It's been a good year for beans and onions," said the 67-year-old from Blakenhall. His other crops include callaloo, pumpkins, corn, peas, potatoes and strawberries.

"It's great seeing the other allotment holders too because there is always somebody willing to help and offer advice," he added.

Julie Jones has transformed her corner half-plot since she took it on in September 2014 when it was completely overgrown and full of dead blueberry plants.

"I had always wanted to grow vegetables but didn't have room at home. I enjoy being outside and the head space it allows you. It gives you time to reflect on what is going on in your life and gives you time to think things through while you work.

"To grow your own vegetables and taken them home, prepare them and eat them is fantastic. I've grown carrots for the first time this year and they are carrots like they are supposed to look, smell and taste," said the 58-year-old former police officer and council worker.

Her advice for anyone starting out is not to rush or not take on too much at once. "Little and often is best because that helps you to keep on top of everything. If you leave it for two weeks, you will be disheartened when you return and find the weeds have grown. It's better to do a little and often to keep it nice and tidy.

"Also if something doesn't go to plan or doesn't grow then there is always next year to put it right. And if you do something right that you love, you can always do it again next year," added Julie.