Allot-a-fun In Hoylake

The allotment feels like a very traditional part of British society. The allotment garden or community garden as it’s known in some parts of the world is simply a plot of land which has been made available to individuals for non-commercial gardening and cultivating food a personal supply of food. The earliest allotments date back to 1732 in the UK when Birmingham was just a town, however, a site in Great Somerford claims to be the first dating back to 1809 when Rev Stephen Demainbray asked King George III to donate part of his parish for commoners to utilise as allotments.

Today I took the opportunity to attend an allotment open day in Hoylake, Wirral. I have never been involved in allotments, my closest encounter had simply been admiring them from the train whilst travelling between cities. I was on the waiting list for an allotment when I was living in Hertfordshire but I wasn’t there nearly long enough to get to the front of the very long queue.

My parents grew up in and around Hoylake along with my grandparents, it is somewhere I have spent a lot of time growing up and exploring in recent years. The self-managed collective of about 80 allotments is located across a railway line near Manor Road station. Greeted by a group of stalls selling home made food, jams and vegetables all grown on the allotment it was a promising start, but I wasn’t quite aware just how magnificent this hidden gem actually was.

We decided to take a look around the allotments first, I decided to take part in the quiz, which comprised 12 fruit and veg related brain teasers. Weaving in and out of various allotments visiting some and taking part in their activities and hearing all about their latest yields. It was clear that the time and energy people put into their patch and the overall area was well rewarded with well blossoming flowers, busy wildlife and outstanding vegetables.

It was great to hear all about the variants of vegetables that are rare when it comes to standard supermarket offerings, a particularly popular option here being the yellow and round courgettes. We spoke with a nice chap called Ian (you can check out his blog here) who kindly allowed people to pop into his allotment and visit his four hens, who were happily digging and demolishing some plants in their run, this was especially interesting to us as we’ve been keeping chickens at home for the last five years or so.

I think allotments have become sidelined in their importance in today’s society, but I feel that the demand is still very much there, the waiting lists make that clear and the community spirit is as strong if not stronger as the diversity of plot holder has developed to become a more inclusive and broad spectrum of individuals. I feel that allotments not only offer the chance for people of all backgrounds to make use of the land but it also provides time, space and contact with nature and other people when that is becoming more of a rare pleasure.

Hopefully one day I’ll get the opportunity to have my own or share and allotment. I hope that the allotment communities across the UK and the rest of the world can keep the spaces, tradition and art going for centuries to come and I look forward to going to more open days in the very near future. I’ve just enjoyed some plums which we purchased from the stalls, I look forward to trying the jams and gooseberries we picked up too!

© 2017 James Woods