Picture the scene: three thirty on a Friday afternoon, members of the “events committee” meeting at a sodden allotment site. The weather forecast is full of gloom; rain getting heavier, if not wetter. It hadn’t seemed so tricky, back in November when this Open Day was being planned (part of the itinerary prepared in advance to go out with fee payment agreements in February, so plot holders and cottage gardeners know what is planned and when it ‘ll happen). Open Day? August?Beginning of National Allotments Week? Be brilliant weather!
But, determined as ever (perhaps dogged – or slightly crazy are words that also fit the bill), we decide: “It’s on!”
The marquee, on loan from Cheslyn Hay Scouts (thanks for that) skilfully erected, means we are also now prepared. Scarecrows are counted, paperwork sorted, floats counted, details gone over just one more time. We defer making a decision on how many burgers to buy for the “free-to-plot holders” barbecue. That may prove to be a step too far and we can think about it tomorrow. Necessary because once we buy the stuff nobody has room in a freezer to keep it for another time (that’s what allotments’ll do for you at times).
Up again the next morning; setting up from 9 a.m.
But the book stall is set up, the “pick an egg” (some things you just have to be there to understand, know what I mean?) stall too, so does bunting. Somebody staggers in carrying anther scarecrow … stalls get set out for the refreshments, produce appears and gets displayed on the “barrow”. It’ll be sold and money donated to West Midlands Air Ambulance (the charity chosen by plot holders at the A.G.M. in October)
Cheslyn Hay Historical Society have sent their apologies; Staffs Wildlife Trust told us they wouldn’t send anyone if it was raining … where are the beekeepers?
HCPT arrive. They are cheerful, ready to set up their tombola. Soon get stuck in and the site starts to liven up.
Followed fairly swiftly by the beekeepers. Stalwarts! We have a couple of hives on the site and are delighted to promote bees and bee keeping.
Before anybody can say pumpkin it’s noon: official opening time.
Joan, from Hedgehog Rescue and a “special guest” are also on site, spreading the word. Allotments can be such key sites for hedgehogs – and hedgehogs such useful “friends” to growers.
New to the area PCSO Adam arrives and introduces himself. The PCSO has keys to the site and, although a little surprised at how large the place actually is (a not uncommon reaction) he promises to look over the area on his patrols.
It’s warm rain now at any rate (and warmer still under the tea ‘n’ cake tent. Big thanks to those who did the baking – delicious.
Caroline, from the Eat Well campaign, drops in and has a chat; one of the first visitors. Then there is a steady stream of people: families on the “Scarecrow Parade Trail” – diligently filling in their voting slips.
Plot holders keen to support the event, local people just curious (one of whom buys most of the produce from the barrow. So we have to re-stock it (blimey, there’s a lot of people handing us courgettes-cum-marrows today!)
One visitor, from Cannock wants rhubarb, for his daughter, so I nip off to my plot and pull some for him. He pays us a marvellous compliment; mentioning “what a friendly bunch” we are.
It’s great to hear things like that – especially as the rain begins to lift.
We decide to get stocks in for the barbecue while the sky is blue and spirits soar.
Rain sets in again and a couple of ladies who “Just nipped in to see if D… was here ” so they could shelter in his shed for ten mins end up being fed and given a cup of tea. They turn down the red currant wine that Eddie has brought along. (in fact he won’t drink it himself, but it’s been a long day and somebody has to try it eh?).
A big thanks to everyone who contributed in any way, especially to those who were visiting our allotments for the first time (hope to see you again maybe?)
Winding down at the end of the event, planned to be at the start of NSALG’s National Allotments Week (http://www.nsalg.org.uk/news-events-campaigns/national-allotments-week/), we are pleased that we showed true grit in going ahead with it, wished, inevitably that a few more people had visited, but all agreed that these marquees are the bee’s knees.
Time to start planning for next year yet ?
It’s one of those things isn’t it: did we meet him, or vice versa?
Gavin Williamson, that is; our local (south Staffordshire) M.P.
We were representing Cheslyn Hay Community Allotments at a South Staffordshire Community Voluntary Action celebration at Perton back in June – he was opening the event.
He was brief and amusing in his remarks and spent the day visiting each of the many stalls; where he demonstrated the knack of making each group feel special and showing an interest in what was on offer. That, of course included our “custom built barrow”*. And he mentioned that he would like to come and see the whole site, but was unavailable for the planned Open Day.
Several mails and ‘phone calls later we arranged it all and he duly turned up; smaller car than I had expected, but the same keen questioning enquiries and the ability not to always take himself too seriously. He was accompanied by the head boy of Cheslyn Hay High School , on a “work experience” scheme. He represented his school, himself and indeed, Gavin Williamson extremely well and was fully involved throughout.
Gavin himself had remembered his promise to provide a trophy for the Scarecrow parade, had a guided tour of the site, passing compliments on individual plots, plants and certain crops. He was happy to take up a spade and turn the first spadesful of soil to begin to prepare the ground for the composting toilet (our thanks to West Midlands Co-op for the funding) and pose for photographs.
He was accompanied by a young man named Jay, head boy at Cheslyn Hay High School who was mature, responsible and a great representative throughout, certainly deserving od special mention for his insight and the way he joined in while remaining respectful and interested. We had prepared a cup of tea and biscuit break and sat together sipping tea and chatting about a number of subjects: fracking, HS2, wine making, allotments, backgrounds and families. This was perhaps the first official informal (if such a thing is possible?) use of the community area for this purpose: sitting together, chatting, with refreshments and the wonderful sense of community-togetherness which, happily, pervades these allotments these days.
Leaving us to go on to an M.P.s surgery he complimented the style of management and praised the forward thinking that is going on (typified by the raised beds he saw).
The self-same “barrow” that was used for Cheslyn Hay Open Gardens Day and at the Age UK/Eat Well meeting in Essington … and we plan to use during the Open Day (this Saturday, from noon – 4).
See you there ?
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Thank you for your time.
When I first started to grow vegetables I needed help to work out what I should be doing each month at my allotment. I found that there was lots of bits of information scattered between internet sites and books and it used to take me a long time to find the information I actually needed. I really needed it all to be in one place, so I could look it up easily, to establish what to do each month.
I therefore thought it would be useful to have this information altogether in one place. So for the benefit of UK gardeners, at the beginning of each month, I write a list of things…
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The photos above show some of the scarecrows that seem to have started to take up residence on the plots this week.
Wonderful variety of styles from the sweet to the, frankly weird … but a great effort from all the scarecrow creators out there.
They will all be “standing by their (vegetable ) beds tomorrow as part of our Annual Open Day (opens at 12 noon) and visitors will have a chance to marvel at them – and vote for their favourite one.
There will also be a range of other stalls and activities.
See you there perhaps?
(If you need the address: Pinfold Lane, Cheslyn Hay, WS6 7HP)