Sunday, 14 November 2010

Unrealistic expectations ?

There are lots of new people wandering around as the allotment office are trying to address the issue of unworked plots across the city and recently issued around 15o part and non-cultivation letters for our site.

Most of the potential newbies are horrified at the plots they are being offered, which got me thinking about expectations.

The first plot I was offered had gone native ... you couldn't tell where the wood began and it was situated at the remotest part of the site so I turned it down (indeed, 4 years on I'm pretty certain it's still not tenanted). The next one was only head height in weeds - so much more manageable haha and it's been bloody hard work to bring it round.

The council recently spent around £50,000 on clearing plots across the city (around 3,500 plots in total in Sheffield). I think there were around 7 plots cleared on our site, maybe a handful more. Unfortunately the plots that were chosen for clearance really were the worst of the worst - not such a bad thing you say ? Well the soil is thin or non-existent on the worst which have been used as landfill and the others are waterlogged as the sun doesn't manage to reach the soil because they are dwarfed by enormous mature trees. The new allotment officer even expressed disappointment at the plots that were chosen (by the previous officer we presume).

The family I met today had been on the list for 2 years - the plot they'd been offered sounded reasonable (it has some security issues, but the allotment office might be able to help with that) - but part of me wonders what will happen if they take it on. She was a new mum and so time is going to be pretty tight right and as the only person working the plot I wonder whether they are not biting off more than they can manage ? hmmm.

Then again when you've been waiting so long for a plot maybe you have higher expectations - afterall it wouldn't be remiss to think that a 2 year wait meant that the site had full occupancy & beautifully cultivated plots would it ... Maybe I'm the one with unrealistic expectations - but I'm only too aware of how much back breaking work allotments are ... and how quickly they go native if even left for a couple of weeks !

Some of our plots are monsters - but it's a self perpetuating issue. Newbies take on the plot, it's too much for them and they give up after a month or two ... but they've paid their rent, so keep the plot for another 10 months ... by which time the plot is in an even worse state - and so the cycle repeats.

So maybe the council should clear the plots for new tenants ? Sure, sounds great ... but when old Ken gave up his plot a couple of seasons ago, it was weed free, hedges trimmed to around 2foot, lots of beds ready to plant in - perfect for the new tenants who took it on as soon as he left. Sadly it is now completely overgrown again following a season of sunbathing, reading and a little light gardening - another casualty of the fashion for allotments ?

I don't know what the answer is really, but at least the new officers seem to mean business so all we can do is be as supportive as possible.

Speaking of which, the Allotment office have organised a team building day for their department in December. It's going to take the form of a 'ranger' day which basically means that the whole department turn up on our allotment site for the day with the aim of doing some plot clearance work and tackling some other jobs. We're going to try and rally the troops to swell their numbers and make some good progress - not a small task on a site as large as ours (400 plots).

Of course cake will be required for the volunteers - tonight I've made Delia's Spiced Apple Muffin Cake with Pecan struesel topping with a bag of donated apples - if you've got lots of apples left, give it a go - it is lovely with whipped double cream, warm from the oven ... oh yes. Yum !