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 ?