Coton Hill Allotments – Thinking …

31 Jan

I was informed that the site was historically used for narrow allotments as shown on old maps dating back to the 1800s.  The site was used as such until comparatively recently.  Something I want to research further.  I observed a number of old fruit trees (apples, pears and plums) around the site.  In addition to this though, I noticed many different free food sources, including blackberries, sloes, hazel trees.  Even nettles and hawthorn can be a source of nourishment.  I was reminded of the books “Food for Free” by Richard Mabey and more recently, “Wild Food” by Ray Mears and Gordon Hillman.

This made me think about the historical use of land for agriculture by humans, and I realised that this project has a resonance with that period in the landscape when Neolithic man turned away from hunting and gathering to become a settled farmer.

There could be an interesting relationship and contrast between images of the “wild food” already obtainable and the cultivated food yet to be grown on the site.

In many ways the landscape around the site could be almost unchanged for centuries, but then one begins to notice the details of the tree planting, the fencing, the telegraph poles further away and further away still, the houses.  The signs of the old allotments are not immediately apparent, so I wonder what impact the new allotments will have on the landscape and the surrounding flora and fauna.  I am interested from an environmental, scientific point of view, but I am also interested in the visual impact and what effect the project has on the “atmosphere” of the landscape.

Having shared an allotment with Julie for a few years now, I am aware of the sense of place one has with what could otherwise be an anonymous plot of land.  There is a desire to impose some shape and character to “your” plot, and through the growing of food we can regain some meaningful connection to the land and, as importantly, to the passing of the seasons. 

So besides documenting the transformation of the site, I will explore the direct impact that the people involved in the project will have on the land.  I am interested in recording how the project affects their personal perspectives and the local community in general. 

The trend for managing an allotment is nothing new, but in a time of increasing pressures on the environment, increasing population and a struggling global economy, it is ever more relevant.  Taking some control over the food that we eat must be a good thing, in so many ways.  Perhaps, the images I can capture may illustrate that.

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