Archive | March, 2012

Coton Hill Allotments – And so it grows…

27 Mar

Suddenly with an incredible spell of warm, almost Summer-like weather at the end of March, the allotment has become an industrious place.  Its a busy time of year, but I managed to make a visit to the site early on 23rd March. 

I had a chat with the enthusiastic Martin Howard, who has done most of the work in developing the site.  He was continuing to work on the fencing and gates along the northern edge, having completed the work on the main entrance gates at the bottom of the access track.  He was awaiting further instructions on proceeding with the water connection to be made from the Berwick Estate. 

The most striking thing for me, was to see not only the immediate impact people have made on their respective plots, but the diversity of their approach.  As vegetation is not yet well established, the most obvious impact was the new sheds, greenhouses, cloches and other various structures.  Hard landscaping.  The idiosyncratic use of found and reclaimed materials is already evident, in addition to some brand new materials.

Some folk have gone for weed control and mulching – I fear the nettles will bite back.  Others have gone straight for digging and improving the soil.  Several of the plots have impressively neat rows of potatoes planted.  There is already a wide variety of vegetables and fruit bushes.  The most powerful signs of Spring were the few heads of rhubarb bursting out of the soil with an almost palpable energy.

The buds are emerging on the surrounding trees and the battle over territory with the rabbits goes on…

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Coton Hill Allotments – Wintry reminder

15 Mar

So the day after our sunny visit to see the newly created plots (albeit interspersed with some fairly nasty hailstorms) I awoke on the 19th February to find a sprinkling of snow on the ground.  I rushed out to see the site and take some shots, and the snow was melting all around as I worked.  The sun came out and its was a beautiful crystal clear morning.

I exchanged a brief hello with Matt, walking his dog – thinking back, it seems like I have seen him on nearly every visit I’ve  made and I’m wondering just how much time he spends out here.  I can understand why anyone would want to be out walking in this landscape though.

I saw the first shoots coming through around the edge of the site, almost as a defiant thrust against the snow.  A clear sign that Spring is on the way, and it will be a race against time and weeds for the allotmenteers to get their seedlings on the go and then into the ground.  But not just yet, if this cold weather is anything to go by.

With the snow on the ground it was also all too evident just how much rabbit activity there is on the site.  Tell tale footprints led the way to burrows up to the north east corner of the site, and all around.  These mixed with bird footprints and the tyre prints of machines used to prepare the ground.

Once more I marvelled at the sculptural hedgerows intertwined with corrugated and wire fencing, gnarled trees, twisted branches and rabbit burrows.  There are some wonderful shapes, textures and details here, and it would be great to preserve the character of these.  I know that there are plans to lay the hedges, initially on the north side, and this will look good too, and will be a good way to set and manage the form of the site into the future.  But it would be a shame to lose all of the feel of the ancient landscape too.

Coton Hill Allotments – Lots of Plots

11 Mar

The day arrived when the ground was prepared, rotovated and marked out for 33 plots.  Prospective allotment holders were invited along to the Woodman pub to find out more and sign up for a plot on Saturday 18th February 2012.  

I went along and had a chat with most of the people there, and heard about their different plans for planting and growing.  Afterwards we had a wander along to the site.  There was a genuine sense of excitement.  Some folk, like Ron and Phil have played a huge part in preparing the site so far, and I can see that the other committee members and various friends and colleagues have put in a lot of hard work.  Other folk were just keen to take part in growing for themselves and there was a mixture of enthusiasm and trepidation from the less experienced, and some general concern about how to combat the large rabbit population on and around the site.

I guess for an allotment site in current times, this is a relatively unique opportunity for a community to take ownership of a project and start out on it together.  So the sense of community can develop from the start.  For me starting out on an already established allotment at Castlefields, there was not such an immediate sense of belonging, although Julie and I have since got to know all our neighbours and various other folk on the site.  Sharing of ideas, tips, spare seedlings and produce is part and parcel of allotment life, and there was much conversation on the subject already.