Opinion: Finally, we've lost the plot
THE dream is over. This week we relinquished tenancy of our allotment plot.
Nearly eight years have passed since we took it on. Back then, the decade had only just started, bank notes were made of paper and I didn’t need a hat on a sunny day quite as much as I do nowadays.
We were thrilled to bag our large plot. OK, it was waist-deep in weeds but we had high hopes, untapped energy and boundless optimism. We would turn this patch of green stuff into a fruit and veg-based paradise. It would become an oasis of tranquil productivity. A sanctuary of bountiful (and edible) goodness.
My first-ever encounter with a slow worm, while hacking at the undergrowth with shears, did involve me believing I’d stumbled upon a highly venomous snake (the screaming and running away wasn’t my finest moment). A little research revealed my wriggly chum was, in fact, a kind of leg-free lizard and a slug-consuming bonus for allotmenteers.
He had friends, too. They moved into the warm compost bins, and in the height of summer it wasn’t unusual to lift the lid and discover a dozen of them enjoying the warm spell. Less delightful were the ticks. With the allotment besieged by hungry deer visiting the salad section, their parasitic hangers-on sometimes got left behind, and decided I was fair game. Tick tweezers and antibiotics from the doctor ensued.
Is it coincidence that, during our time as proud plot-holders, I’ve had physiotherapy for a bad back, and recently a painful shoulder? Bit by bit, we gradually improved our plot when the weekends were dry, but it was slow progress. For every successful couple of hours, there would be a weekend when it rained constantly, or we were away. As any gardener will know, if you aren’t constantly chipping away at it, little weeds become big weeds, and neatly cut grass an impenetrable forest.
We had successes, of course. The small apple tree we inherited has been a joy, yielding hundreds of tasty apples every autumn. So fruitful has it been, that I’m still consuming the apple and ginger jam we made in 2015 – I haven’t even started last year’s yet. Raspberries, strawberries, courgettes and beans – in different years we’ve wondered what to do with the carrier bags of one or the other we brought home.
But in the end, we had to be realistic. We both work full time, our old house is crying out for attention, and we do like to go for a walk, a day out, or to visit friends and family. Or just watch TV. An allotment is like a toddler – fun, full of surprises, but constantly growing and requiring attention.
So, see ya, strawberry beds. Goodbye, gooseberry bush. Rock on, raspberries. I’ll miss you, but the time is right for someone else to reap the rewards the land (and a lot of hard work and compost) can provide. I’m ready for a rest... after completing the enormous list of DIY jobs, obviously. Jam, anyone?