30 December 2006

A visit from Santa

Not much activity down the allotment recently, due to Mrs D injuring her knee at the beginning of December and not being able to move much (still), oldest childs 5th birthday in the middle of December, Christmas and of course the weather being miserable.

On the plus side though, Santa was most generous this year on the gardening front. As well as the wheelbarrow purchased some time ago, but officially a Christmas present, I also received some vouchers from Garden Organics, a pair of wellies, another pair of gardening gloves (actually far too nice for wearing down the allotment!), lots of seeds, plant and row markers and some string for marking rows, etc. Mrs D is also paying for me to go on an Organic Gardening course run nearby. Now of course all I need is some time and the weather to cooperate to get back down there to do something!

To pass the time I'm pouring over the catalogue from Garden Organics and trying not to spend too much money, but it's my birthday is 6 weeks...

I am hoping to pop down at some point in the next couple of days (weather and new year hangover permitting) just to measure the various different areas. Last time I was down there I couldn't help but think the initial rough measurements are wildly inaccurate. Which of course means I can experiment with yet another (potential) plan for the allotment.

11 December 2006

A good moan...

... is often good to voice the frustration, but in this case it has also paid dividends. Had an email from the local Area Panel this morning regarding the concerns voiced by myself, another plot holder and the Sheffield Allotment Federation.

Essentially they agreed that they should be making best use of existing allotment sites and awarded the site £300 to be spent on the site in line with the wishes of the allotment holders, to be administered by the Allotment Federation.

OK so not a fortune and not going to sort out all the problems, but definitely a positive step and encouraging for us all on there. Particularly encouraging given the speed of the response and because it only took two allotment holders and the Federation to write in to them to get something done. Now all we have to do is to decide how to spend it, which is of course a nice problem to have!

More on the allotment - including pictures!!! - soon.

3 December 2006

In lieu of any photos...

A diagram!

Which also explains why I'm not a graphic artist. Anyway, this is a rough layout of how the allotment will look, broken down as follows:

1 - This is where the remains of the old greenhouse are, complete with 3 foot brick base. I started clearing this yesterday and it's not as bad a job as I thought. Yes is is a big area, about 6m x 3m. Not entirely sure what to grow there at the moment, but probably tomatoes to give them some shelter and possibly construct some sort of cold frame structure in there as well. No many weeds to dig out, all the broken glass is acting as a weed surpressant!

2 - Is the play area for the kids, and is finished!

3 - is where the garlic is planted. This was the first bed and was a case of dig here to plant something. This was probably the area where I dug up the asparagus...

4 - Tulips and daffodils. The second bed and a case of putting something in to brighten the place up come spring.

5 - 11 - who knows at the moment! Still digging, probably got about half way through bed 7 at a guess on the left hand side and barely started the fruit bed ont he right. Bed 11 I fancy trying growing the "three sisters" - beans, sweetcorn and winter squash - in the same bed. Apparently a native American technique whereby the corn serves as support for the beans, the beans add nitrogen to the soil needed by the corn and the squash provide ground cover to help moisture retention. To do this will involve moving the teepee I built for the kids though... Bed 10 is probably going to be a bit too close to the tree to put much in so may well become the new home for the teepee!

12 - Fruit. Hopefully salvage the remains of the blackcurrant I didn't destroy (!), plus some raspberries promised from my grandad in the new year. Eventually include strawberries, gooseberries, and possibly blueberries (although they grow quite well in the pots at home).

The grey area will be the paths (non-existent at the moment) and the long thin strip on the left is where the hedge roots will prevent anything growing. And the top end of the allotment (the bottom of the diagram) will be for compost, manure, etc.

Of course this will all probably change by next week!

2 December 2006

A busy week

Sadly not down on the allotment but in complaining about the state of our allotments and contacting various people.

Some background
The site our allotment is on is VERY neglected. Just 18 months ago only 18 out of around 170 plots were taken, the rest were hugely overgrown with brambles, weeds and trees. At the time we were looking for a plot (late August) access roads were virtually impassable as the weeds were taller than me, it was impossible to identify plot numbers (although the bizarre number system used on the site doesn't help matters there!), and it was incredibly difficult to find your way on to a plot unless you were armed with secateurs as a minimum.

Although that situation has improved a little as more plots have been taken (apparently around 90 now), there is a huge amount of work in clearing the plots, the rubbish (rotten wood and doors, metal and vast amounts of glass on our plot) and cutting down 30+ foot hedges. We don't get any help from the council with any of this.

There is also a car park for the site which remains closed. This is due to 'misuse' in the past when the gates were not locked. Unauthorised dumping of rubbish cost a great deal to remove and comes out of the allotment office budget - which is a pitiful amount for the 3,000+ allotments here in Sheffield. However, this leaves us to park on one of two very busy roads: one very twisty and little wider than a country lane, but is still national speed limit. The other is a very steep hill, also very busy and national speed limit. The other road bordering the site is very busy, but just 40mph speed limit (not that it stops people being killed quite regularly on it!) and signs telling you not to park there...

I enquired to our allotment office whether they had any plans to reopen the car park, they said no due to 'previous misuse'.

Enough is enough
Well that was enough for me I wrote a long and detailed reply to them stating the case (primarily safety and us being penalised for previous tenants actions) for re-opening it. I'm still awaiting a response. I also voiced my issues/complaints/moans on The Grapevine where I received some good contacts for further advice.

I the first instance I contacted the Allotment Regeneration Initiative, via their rep for Yorkshire. I outline all the issues I saw as a problem. The following day I received a detailed and positive response, and also a further contact here in Sheffield. My next contact was with the Sheffield Allotment and Home Gardens Federation (been going nearly 90 years now, but yet to join the digital age!). I spoke at length to the secretary about the site. She was aware of many of the issues already and as an organisation they had been instrumental in attempting to revive the plot. She was again very positive and also told me that the local Area Panel the allotments come under was due to meet soon to discuss allotment, and that they had summoned the allotments officer and his boss to this meeting. This was primarily due to the complete lack of allotments in most of this area (eight year waiting list at the far end of this area!), but they would also discuss the issues with our site at this meeting. The Sheffield Federation were also going to ask for a considerable amount of help in clearing the site as well.

There is of course no guarantee that we will get any help, but you have to ask and make your complaints known. The fact that it also falls in the most affluent area of Sheffield is a bit of a blow, as we're not likely to be qualifying for any grants anytime soon. I imagine most of us on that site don't live in this affluent area though. I did also find out that we are supposed to be introducing a scheme whereby people who take on an abandoned allotment get the second year free. This is a very good idea, I just hope we qualify for this given all the efforts we've had to put in!

Ah, yes the allotment
Despite all that still managed a couple of hours on the allotment today. Dug very little as the bloody blackberry roots take forever to dig out, and I got fed up with them! So, I took solace in cutting down some more of the hedge and clearing some the area where the old greenhouse was, by throwing most of the rotten wood into the border between the allotments. There is still a huge amount of glass to clear from the ground around there though so I was treading very carefully. I also berated myself for failing to bring the camera once again... Sorry!

27 November 2006

You must be mad!

My hired help for the day (aka my parents) were a little taken aback by the state of the allotment and the rest of the site in general. I did point out just how much better the allotment is now compared to when we took it on!

Once they got over the shock, I set them to work - Dad on the hedge and Mum and clearing some rubbish and digging. Having considerably more knowledge than me about gardening (not difficult!), they told me I'd dug up a load of asparagus (b*gger!), I have some blackcurrants (fortunately I'd not cut all of them down, so may be able to salvage something there) and that the tree on the border of the plot is a plane tree.

Another huge chunk of hedge was removed, and apart from the cuttings of this covering a considerable area of the allotment it's still difficult to tell. More digging took place, the bath was moved to the side of the plot and the remains of the bonfire were removed.

Despite it being a nice day (Sunday) here, there was only one other person on site as far as I could see, but whilst conditions still allow I'm continuing to make as much progress as possible. So after a couple of hours of amazement at being charged for the first year, having no help in clearing the plot or the hedge and having no help in disposing of any of the rubbish (including some asbestos I found) - i.e. from the council - I took the parents back home and cooked them roast beef in payment for their services whilst they entertained their grandchildren.

19 November 2006

Today, I will mostly be...

... digging. Well Saturday and Sunday to be honest, but only for a couple of hours at a time. Saturday was cold and sunny, as was Sunday as well, with frost still visible when I went down - early start! Soil still easily diggable (is that a word?!), so just steadily ploughing through with it.

What no beds?
After starting on the digging it quickly became apparent, it wasn't going to work just digging the beds I wanted, I was going to have to dig all of it to get the roots out. So, I've been steadily cursing my way up the plot digging out huge great long roots and dumping them by the wheelbarrow load further up the plot. It has to be said, this isn't the most fun job in the world, but it's better than watching England play rugby at the moment!

Still collecting up some of the bigger leaves into an old bark chippings bag and roughly marked out a couple of paths. The main central(ish) path look a bit too wide to be honest, but it's not a major issue at the moment. However, having got this far with the digging it's time to start making my mind up on what to plant where...

16 November 2006


Supposed to be on my way to Coventry now, but the car failed it's MOT meaning I'm getting a very early train in the morning...

On the plus side, the first seeds have arrived! Ordered from The Real Seed Catalogue the other day, they are now sitting on the desk, whilst I wonder where to put them where they will be safe from little hands. Mrs D being big on tomatoes requested five different varieties, as well as cucumbers for pickling. We also ordered butternut squash, peas and French beans. The full list being:

  • Paris Pickling (cucumber)
  • Waltham Butternut (squash)
  • Aurora (tomato)
  • Costoluto Fiorentino (tomato)
  • Dragsennost (tomato)
  • Gardeners Delight (tomato)
  • Gigante Liscio (tomato)
  • Cherokee Trail of Tears (French bean, worth buying for the name alone!)
  • Hatif d'Annonay (pea)
  • Telephone (pea)

which came to a grand total of £16.75.

We've always wanted to grown fruit and veg where the flavour is the most important factor and after they were recommended by WelshGirlsAllotment (thanks for that!) the philosophy of Real Seeds seems to match our aim. The seeds also come with instructions on how to save your own seed for subsequent years which could prove to be very useful also. Other seeds will be ordered after Christmas, in the hope of receiving some vouchers as presents and to allow me to pay for the car to pass its MOT ;>(

12 November 2006

I'll just dig that bit...

Strange how the idea of digging a small bed can lead you off to digging up the area you thought would be the path, half way across the allotment, etc. My nice idea of digging the first of our beds for next years' planting (lots of planning in the evenings, aided and abetted by daughters additional scribbings) was somewhat scuppered by the roots of the weeds of the plot stretching for several feet in many different directions. The result was quite a bit of digging, a sore back (nothing serious, it's just not used to exercise!) and a fairly undefined area of dug soil. Still it's a start.

Also, with digging all the weeds out the level of the allotment in that area has fallen by about 6 inches. Guess I should get some manure in to boost it back up again. Most upsetting to see so many blackberry roots that need to be dug out, and even worse where they've been cut down they're sprouting again!

There are quite a few leaves across the allotment now, so I dutifully gathered up many of them and put them into an old plastic sack (not having a suitable area for starting leaf mulch yet. Plenty of chicken wire around though, so eventually will make a nice basket for them to rot down in.

More plots taken
Encouragingly more and more plots seem to be being taken on. At least two more plots were being worked on today, there is hope for the site yet! There are also a whole lot more mad people than I realised taking on plots with so many trees growing in the middle of them!

A new tap!!!
To celebrate the water being turned off for the winter, the council (I'm assuming it's them) have kindly provided a nice new tap for our 'lane', to replace the... leaking standpipe. I think they have had several complaints about it (and not just from me!), so they're probably wishing the site wasn't undergoing a revival after all. Let's just hope it survives until the water is turned back on in the spring...

Well I was hoping to order some seeds from Real Seeds after finishing this, but after adding a couple of items to my 'shopping basket' the site seems to have gone down completely. More on that later - hopefully.

What no photos?
There has been a complaint! Apparently there are not enough photos to show what a wonderful setting the allotment is in (even if the allotment itself is not looking that wonderful yet!). It's true, there are not enough photos because I keep forgetting to take the camera down - which I managed to do once again. Next time I will be concentrating on taking lots of artistic photos of the new wheelbarrow and surrounding scenery ;>)

The site is just a few minutes drive from home (Crookes - a fairly heavily built up area of mainly terraced houses in Sheffield), but like many parts of Sheffield it feels like being out in the countryside at the allotment. We can only see a few houses above the trees over in Stannington, otherwise we can just see trees of the historic Rivelin Valley. And even better than that is the cafe in the nearby Rivelin Park - it is only about a 15 minute walk from the allotment through the valley and they do some seriously good cakes! Not to mention the breakfasts. OK so we've checked the place out a few times already, but I can see it getting a lot more use!

7 November 2006

More planting!

Sounds like we've been lucky with the weather up here as the allotment is still very easy to dig and not that muddy at all. So taking advantage of the situation another couple of bags of bark chippings were added to the play area to give it a greater depth (bringing it to 8 bags in all), and the wheelbarrow was introduced to its new home!

Certainly made it a lot easier to move things around (i.e. the rubbish from one end to another), resulting in it being reasonably clear now. Well apart from the leaves, but I'm trying to gather up as many of them as possible in the spare bags from the bark chippings. Eventually hoping to get some nice leaf mulch.

So the digging... Manage to finally get round to planting the tulips and daffodils (maybe a little late?), in the hope that come spring there will be something growing and showing encouragement - and also saving on some florist bills! I also divided the rhubarb crowns (as shown on Gardener's World last Friday) and temporarily put them in as well, before deciding on a permanent home for it.

So the next task is to plan out some beds and paths. Fortunately there are a lot of bricks on the allotment so I will use these to mark out the boundaries, and weigh down the weed fabric on any areas that get dug.

Still no manure. Still need to have a big bonfire. And still need to get rid of all the rotten wood. Oh and apparently clearing the path to the allotment is the plot holders responsibility as well, heaven forbid the council do anything useful like making them accessible. The water has been turned off for the winter until March now, with the promise of a tap being fitted then. The site we are on theoretically has just under 200 plots available, but I defy anyone to find more than half of them. Given the huge demand there seems to be at the moment (loads of people looking around for plots), you'd think the council/allotment office would try and make them look more attractive to take on - i.e. make the paths usable, cut down a few trees, moan, moan... Off to find contact details for local councillor.

29 October 2006

We have a play area!

The play area is (almost) finished. After leveling(ish!) the area, covering it with weed fabric and then bark chippings it was open for testing from the children. I put six bags of bark chippings from Wickes (£4 a bag) over the area and I reckon it could do with another couple more (currently sitting on the passenger seat in the car) - hence the almost finished. Took down a few toys and a sun tent - which yes we did need today! - and let them loose on it. As you can see it was strenuous work all that testing.

In progress

Undergoing testing


Obviously it's not going to pass any health and safety checks, but we're not going to leave them there unsupervised. What with that and the tepee (aka eating area) that should keep them our of mischief for a while...

Almost Clear
As well as making provisions for the children, we have managed to clear most of the pile of brambles and remaining hedge cuttings to the side of the allotment, giving an almost clear site now to plan some paths and beds and start some serious digging. In clearing the main pile of brambles in the middle of the allotment, found about 3 old doors and a fair bit of glass. All of the rotten wood has now been taken to the top of the plot awaiting a trip to the tip and all of the glass has (hopefully) been deposited in the old greenhouse, which is the abandoned part of the allotment for now.

It's Christmas!
Well, it's not long now and I happened to remark that a wheelbarrow would be useful down there and my mother-in-law offered to buy me one as a Christmas present. And even better I could get it now and start using it! So once again that nice Wickes store down the road was the supplier. All we need to do now is find out what happened to my manure supply... Fortunately our neighbour at no. 17 has a back up plan where a local farmer will deliver the stuff for £40 a load. Obviously I'd prefer not to pay though!

Seed saving
Thought we'd try and save some seeds from the pumpkin we picked during the holidays - Suzanne made a nice soup and carved a face for Halloween from one of them. No idea what variety it is but they were growing in a field just outside Warwick, so they'll be in with a chance of growing in Sheffield.

24 October 2006

So many people!

A trip down last Saturday with just Suzanne and oldest child. There were people everywhere! Our neighbours at no. 17 were working hard as ever and then we had another visitor looking at the allotment on the other side (no. 43!). We had a chat to them and told them they were at least the 3rd group to look at it so didn't know if it was still available, and about 10 minutes after they left the new tennants of no. 43 did arrive to start clearing it! So quite a lot of the lower allotments on our lane have now been taken and are been actively worked on, which is very promising for the site as a whole. There was even someone in one of the allotments behind ours, which pleased our son greatly as he had someone to play with from school. The only downside to the day was when no. 15 turned up and had a bonfire and smoked us all out - thanks for that Charlie!

So we cleared the hedge cuttings to the top end of the allotment, got rid of the chicken house (sadly, but it was too rotten to keep) and cleared some ground to reveal some soil. All looking promising again now and feeling happier about progress. I bought some (well 100m2 actually!) of weed control fabric of Ebay for the play area primarily, and also to cover the revealed soil - well it was cheap(ish). Hopefully put this down on the play area this week some time as we're all on holiday for half term.

The next task is to clear the remaining brambles at the bottom of the allotment to open up the whole plot and allow us to start putting in some paths and beds. Of course this is on top of finding a place for the rhubarb to go back in, still need to plant the daffs (bit late I know) and tulips, and find somewhere to put the manure that I'm hoping to get hold of this week as well. As ever, so much to do ;>)

And hopefully on one of these visits will remember to take the camera! Almost forgot, had to replant some of the garlic that had been pulled up by the birds - and I thought it was in deep enough for them not to notice!

14 October 2006

The First Planting!

The garlic is in. Four short rows have been planted, so fingers crossed!

OK so it doesn't look like much, other than a bit of a mess, but it's a start.

Another family trip today, youngest child sleeping soundly for the best part of it and oldest child doing his best to make the trip anything but relaxing, but then that's four year olds for you. Pair of them seen here in the fledgling tepee, being bribed to keep quiet with food!

The proposed play area continues to be cleared and the rhubarb was dug up and is lying on the soil hoping for a frost - apparently supposed to make it sweeter if you let the frost get at it. The tepee further up the plot continues to be developed, and despite complaints about the design I think he quite likes it really. Did a bit of tidying of hedge 'clipping' between us and beginning to make progress in finding soil at the bottom end of the allotment.

People, people everywhere!
When we first arrive there was a relative of a new allotment holder (no. 16) just finishing off spraying weed killer everywhere, then whilst unloading the car a plot holder of some 30+ years from further up the site came down to say hello. Handy to remember when we need some advice! Then when we were packing up a family came round to look at some of the vacant plots. Did my best to sell no. 43 to them - bizarrely the neighbouring plot to us, interesting numbering system down there. Hopefully this one will be taken soon.

9 October 2006

What Hedge?

A couple of visits later and most of the offending hedge has been cut down. Well OK, it's still about 20-30 foot high in places, but the vast majority of the bits encroaching of the allotment have been cut down. The rest can stay as it is for the time being as we need to get rid of what we have cut down first. I sense another bonfire approaching...

Some of the longer pieces have been trimmed and the sticks have been put to good use forming the outline of a tepee. Suzanne started to weave some of the smaller pieces around the top to hold it together and provide some shelter. Four year old son, still unimpressed - "I didn't want an Indian tent". Tough, we're not making another and we already more time on that than clearing the rest of the allotment!

A play area
There is a smaller area towards the bottom of the allotment that is bordered by the remains of the greenhouse (a small brick wall) and a small stone wall on the other side. The plan (currently!) is to clear this and create a safe area for the kids to play in. This is now relatively clear, apart from the rhubarb. So once a new location has been chosen for this we'll probably cover the ground with a weed suppressing membrane and put some bark chippings down. This will hopefully keep the children entertained/contained long enough for us to actually start digging some weeds out from the rest of the allotment.

Well OK we haven't planted anything yet, but the garlic (Thermidrome) is on order from The Organic Gardening Catalogue and will hopefully be in by next weekend. Also we have purchased some tulip (40) and daffodil (20) bulbs from the local garden centre - which we can cut next spring to save on my florist bills! More details when I can remember the names...

Another neighbour?
A few people came to have a look at the vacant plot next to ours. Had a quick chat to them and told them it's not as bad as it looks (!), so who knows may have someone else to chat with. Which reminds me, we now have the key to access the 'lane' to our allotment and this Sunday we drove the car down there for the first time. I've not looked at the scratches on the side of the car yet and we couldn't actually get to our plot as it is so overgrown, but it's a safer way to take the kids down with us. Apparently the council clear it once a year in the autumn... Looks to me like it's been some years since they bothered down there.

Possibly some pictures later in the week.

3 October 2006

"I want a den"

After recent over-exertion and family illnesses we had a short trip down on Sunday together as a family for the first time. Oldest child took some persuading, but eventually came round so long as we promised to build him a den. Now I'd have preferred a shed, but there's no arguing with a 4 year old! Youngest slept in pram for most of the visit - fortunately!

Sometime later he was distinctly unimpressed with my efforts to build something from the bits cut from the hedge - "that's not very good". To be fair to him, it wasn't. But as I said, I've not made one of these before and when you're under the time pressure of a small child, it was never really going to be very good.

Needless to say, apart from cutting some more of the hedge down, didn't get much done. That evening some research was undertaken as to how best build a den, and I think I'll be going for the tepee approach as we have the raw materials cut down from the hedge. I may also be making it before said child comes down as well...

Can begin to see the space we will have to work with and how much bigger it looks for cutting the hedge back, and so much lighter as well. Conversely this does mean more ground to dig. Decided (for the moment anyway!) to clear hedge and to burn rubbish before undertaking any serious digging. Oh and to make the den!

The hedge should provide quite a few 'poles' that can be used to support plants next summer, so it's not all bad news with it. And of course the structure for the den - photos and reaction to follow...

30 September 2006

Man make fire!

After giving last weekend a miss due to illness (kids and me), popped down in the week to do a bit more. Decided to see if I could get a bonfire going, and oh yes! Started off quite small, bit turned into something a little bigger than expected! But very satisfying to see those blackberries go up in flames, and so quickly. Fortunately all perfectly safe and no-one else around to smoke out - well apart from me. Burned about a third of the brambles cut down so far.

Cut a bit more of the hedge back and cleared some glass away, but over did it after recent illness and spent the last couple of days 're-recovering'. No pictures, but a bit disillusioned as it seems so long to get anywhere. Probably fed up due to being ill.

Hopefully order some garlic in the next week (from Garden Organics) and get it planted next weekend. Think that will be it on the planting front for a while though whilst try and sort some structure out for the rest of the plot, and attempt to tame the hedge. Picked up a leaflet about hedge laying at South Yorkshire Wood Fair today - www.hedgelaying.org.uk Obviously that would be a good way to go, but far too much to do so will continue chopping, hacking, etc. with it.

16 September 2006

A bed!

Having spent a couple of hours on the allotment yesterday (Friday) and today, the vast majority of the blackberries have been cleared. Well, I say cleared, I fear I'll be 'clearing' them every year for many a year to come, but they have at least been cut down to the ground.

The one good thing about them though is that they do act as very good ground cover and surprise most other weeds. So here is the view from the entrance this morning:

I have to say that the picture do the plot justice. Obviously still lots more to do (that hedge on the left, not to mention the small matter of some digging) but encouraging what has been achieved so far.

The Bed
Today I decided to dig out a small area and add some compost from the home composter. A couple of hours later I managed to dig out about 4 square metres. The soil is very good but infested with the roots of various weeds. However, we now have our first bed.

The plan is to plant some garlic here in a week or so - primarily because it's one of the few things we can plant now and doesn't need much room. As an added bonus we do like and use quite a bit of garlic.

Besides this manage to tidy up the entrance a little and cut back a small section of hedge. This will be this next main job, along with attempting to burn some of the mountain of rubbish that has been cut down from the allotment.

Just as a footnote, I seem to be having great difficulty in walking past any skips at the moment without peering inside to see what I could use. There are many skips around here and quite a bit I could use, but I have to keep reminding myself that I'm not quite ready for it yet.

Maybe down tomorrow, not sure yet.

11 September 2006

The end is in sight!

Well I can see from end of the plot to the other. Still a lot to do but after just over an hour yesterday (Sunday) I can definitely see progress - sadly forgot to take the camera.

After further investigation I'm not convinced the cold frame was actually a cold frame. It's quite big and there is lots of chicken wire around the allotment, so... Still it's not falling apart completely so the potential is there to use it as a cold frame. Not too many more blackberries to cut down now which will hopefully mean all the scratches on my forearm will have a chance to heal. Left arm still aching from tetanus jab the other day, which also came with Polio and diphtheria vaccinations as an added bonus!

Met the people taking on No. 17 next door. They've done really well in clearing their site in a short period of time, so hoping to use this as inspiration to 'keep up with the Jones'! Apparently the site used to be thriving and full of people, sadly about 50 years ago though. But you can drive down the path by all accounts to be alongside your allotment (preferably with a combine harvester to clear the way), which will be useful for delivering manure and removing rubbish like glass. I guess I'll need to speak to the allotment office about that and ask them about clearing the paths at the same time.

Still planning what to plant and where, but hopefully clear enough space to plant some garlic and raspberries in the next month or so. Well you've got to have something to aim for! Possibility of reinforcements in one of the next couple of weekends which will be a great help in cutting down the 'hedge' to a manageable size. Realized with it being so inhospitable at the moment it is not place to take the children, but hopefully clear a patch for them to play in soon(ish) which in turn will allow both of us to work on the allotment at the same time.

9 September 2006

It doesn't look like much, but...

... we've probably managed to cut back around half of the blackberries now.

Fortunately things look clearer than this on the allotment. In the far corner, not really visible is the remainder of the greenhouse. Still not sure what to do there at the moment, but am a little concerned about the safety of the brickwork if the kids come down to the allotment. On the left is the start of a huge pile of blackberries, grass, nettles, etc. That's one big bonfire waiting to happen. And not really visible on the right by the orange plastic is the small stone wall marking the border.

Managed to break a pair of secateurs, overworked them obviously! Started trying to cut back the 'hedge' as well. This may be a bigger job than clearing the rest of the allotment. As it is a hedge, or it is in my opinion, it can come down to 5 feet high according to the allotment office. Sadly they were less helpful with suggestions on disposal of all the glass and how to access the site to get some manure delivered.

Hopefully back down on the allotment for a couple of hours tomorrow afternoon, but for now currently making grand plans via the couple of seed catalogues that have arrived...

7 September 2006


After another couple of hours on Wednesday afternoon I'm beginning to see the layout a bit better and the remains of previous structures. But first some pictures...

There's an allotment in there somewhere! This was the view from the entrance when we first acquired the plot.

The view back towards the entrance from about two thirds of the way down (the remains of the cold frame in the foreground)

A Comment!
Thanks to Welshgirlsallotment who appears to about to take on a similar plot. Good luck, but it is cheating to get your Dad to remove all the blackberries brambles!

A Second Visit
I managed another couple of hours down on the allotment yesterday (Wednesday) and much to the disappointment of oldest child didn't take him with me due to the uncertainty of what lies below the bits uncovered so far and the amount of glass around.

So much hacking later I discovered the possible terracing was in fact a lower part of the allotment that at one time contained a very large allotment (20+ foot long) and still has an 18 inch brick base that would have supported it. Sadly this also means there is an awful lot of glass and rotten wood to remove. The greenhouse appears to have some sort of trough collecting the water outside with a pipe coming through to the inside of it. There was also a Belfast sink nearby.

I discovered the boundary on the other side of the allotment, a small stone wall running the length of it (I think). Probably cut back/trampled on about a third of the brambles now which is really encouraging, sadly forgot to take camera with me. Day off tomorrow so hoping to take Suzanne down and show her the 'estate'!!! And more importantly get her to start chopping things back as well.

Tomorrow I'll also be having a tetanus jab! After enquiring at the GPs whether I needed one to be on the safe side, they recommended it given it was about 18 years ago since my last one.

Manure? How Much Do You Want?
Fortunately my boss keeps horses and has access to vast amounts of manure, well rotted as well. Even better, he'll deliver! Quite how we get it on site I don't know so I'll be enquiring further at the allotment section at the council. I should probably think about getting a wheelbarrow...

Hopefully more over the weekend, although I really should spend some time with the family!

5 September 2006

Where's the Rhubarb?

We are now the proud owners of plot no. 18, Hagg House, Sheffield!

Having purchased a new pair of secateurs, some loppers and some seriously thick gloves, I spent an enjoyable and exhausting couple of hours attempting to discover what the site might look like. Still little the wiser!

I wanted to start in the bottom corner where the light is at its best, but I could get through to that so started about two thirds of the way down. Of course if I was a true allotmenteer I'd have picked all the blackberries before I started chopping them back, but there's still plenty left. My first discovered was the remains of a cold frame, quite a large one. Not sure if the wood will last out and of course the glass is broken nearby. Shortly afterwards an upside down bath, not sure what use that will be but will find some use for it.

By this stage I was quite thirsty and realised I'd left the bottle of water I'd got out on the table at home... Still I did have the radio to keep me company, not much activity on this site at the best of times, but certainly not during the week.

Some time later the rhubarb was discovered! Not looking to good at the moment, but I'm sure it will recover in time. A little disturbed to discover quite a drop (18 inches?) in the bottom third/quarter of the plot but some hacking back later there is a small stone wall, possibly a terrace effect? Right towards the bottom I discovered the brick base and remains of an old greenhouse. Lots of broken glass, but comforting to know that someone obviously had quite a good allotment there some time ago. Beyond that mushrooms! Now I would have had these, but I couldn't get there and not sure if they were in the boundary of our allotment or not.

Right now need to work out how to add pictures. Hopefully get back there Thursday morning with Suzanne for soem more hard work!

1 September 2006

The beginning (almost)

After waiting for two years for someone to die on the Crookes Quarry allotment site here in Sheffield, I have decided to take on an allotment on the Hagg House (roughly) site. More accurately Suzanne has, as due to bureaucracy I couldn't remain on the waiting list for the Crookes Quarry site and apply for a plot on Hagg House... So we are currently in the process of sending paperwork backwards and forwards before it is officially ours.

So why take up a site now, particularly give the state of the whole site? More plots are being taken all the time, not sure why, and hopefully this will give the whole site a boost and make it altogether more hospitable.

So what's it like? It has to be seen to be believed - allotment office, you should try visiting sometime. Fully grow trees have taken over about half of the site and the rest of the plots are covered in weeds (primarily blackberry 'bushes') over six foot tall. Oh and it's set on a steep hill. It's a challenge!

[Pictures to come when 'ownership' is finalised and we can make a start]