Thursday, March 03, 2011

Bush Gardener: There's a lot of Work Ahead at the Allotment!

Emlyn Leisure GardensWell over four years ago I joined the waiting list for an allotment in LBHF.  An article on the BBC (it might even have been this one) talking about a surge in allotment popularity sparked my interest and I began looking into where I might find one around Shepherd's Bush.

Being sat in front of a computer all day at work, it didn't take long for me to find out about the W12 based Emlyn Leisure Gardens Association.  One of only two allotment sites in Hammersmith and Fulham.

Based on the site of an old railway line (there'll be another post about that at some point) just west of Askew Road on the Ealing, LBHF and Hounslow borders they were perfectly located for a keen local.

Emlyn Leisure GardensAfter an initial inquiry, I realised that I wasn't going to be growing my own fruit and veg. anytime soon.  With only 86 plots, the waiting list was pretty long with residents without access to a private outdoor space being given priority.  Still, I qualified, so I sent back my application form and waited, and waited, and waited!

Every so often I wondered whether my name was making its way up the waiting list and then out of the blue last Friday I got a call from Catherine, the plot coordinator of the Association, asking me if I was still interested in having one.

It didn't take me long to deliver a resounding 'yes' and we arranged to meet last Saturday at 11:00.  I was chuffed.

Emlyn Leisure GardensTypically the weather was pretty miserable as I made my way west along Uxbridge Road.  Something I'm going to get rather used to over the next few months, years, etc. I expect!  I arrived just after 11:00, Catherine was easy to spot in her bright yellow coat, and after the standard introductions I had an induction of sorts.

I was shown how to lock/unlock the gate and had to demonstrate that I was up to the task.  Having safely negotiated this first hurdle I was briefed about some general rules and regulations (always lock the gate, wheel barrow storage, blah, blah, blah) and then I was taken to the first available plot.

I was quite surprised at how big it was but then Catherine said it was about a quarter of a standard allotment plot!  I started to wonder how Carolyn, the girl who sits behind me at work, copes with three full sized plots at Duke's Meadow.  It's no wonder her courgettes turn into marrows with all the work she must have to put in!  I was also shown a smaller plot but thought I might as well plump for the larger one. 

Emlyn Leisure GardensHaving made my choice I was taken to the lovely little pavilion where I filled in the necessary forms, received a 17 page (A5 thankfully) rule book and was handed a brand new key for the front gate padlock.

We had a nice chat about the history of the allotments and I was able to unleash my inner geek to talk about the old railway line (called the North & South Western Junction Railway if you're interested!) that used to occupy the site and also the subterranean Stamford Brook which was culverted many years ago and runs underneath the allotments.  Esther (the chairwoman, eeek!) mentioned that there is a blowhole on one of the plots that sometimes erupts when the amount of water entering the old Brook gets too much for it to handle.  It's a very rare occurrence but I so want to see that happen!  The sight of some an unsuspecting chap or chapess getting an absolute soaking would be priceless.

There are BBQ facilities which Sarah was very happy about and various events that are open to friends and family so hopefully I'll be able to entice a few people down to help me with the growing and, fingers crossed, harvesting of whatever I decide to grow.

With Brentford being away at Hartlepool this weekend I'm going to make a start on clearing the ground and measuring up for the raised beds I'm hoping to put in.  I can already see that there is going to be a lot of work ahead.

For now I'll leave you with a few more photos of the little haven that will be keeping me busy over the long summer nights...I'm so excited!!

Looking south from my plot:

Emlyn Leisure Gardens

Looking north from the pavilion:

Emlyn Leisure Gardens

Looking south from the pavilion

Emlyn Leisure Gardens