Given everyone’s situation this Spring and in memory of my Dad, I’m re-publishing the story of his allotment, starting at the beginning, ten years ago. I hope you enjoy it. With love, MS…

allotment, Dad

Very overgrown

Dad rings.

‘I’ve been offered an allotment,’ he says. ‘After all this time!’

He put his name on the waiting list six years ago, just after he and Mum moved up to Yorkshire.

‘There’s only one snag,’ he says. ‘It hasn’t been cultivated for ten years or more. Very overgrown.’

I’m glad he views this as the only snag. He’s 87, has sciatica, a heart problem and a bad toe that makes it difficult to walk. He has never had an allotment before and his vegetable patch in the Cotswolds brought him nothing but misery. ‘Dad…’ I begin.

‘We’ll go take a look at it, shall we?’

The plot is in a newly reclaimed area at the back of a well established allotment community. The Parish Council have opened it up to try and reduce the 180-strong waiting list. We walk and stumble the maze of narrow, uneven paths, passing impressive examples of upcycling: ancient ceramic baths planted full of potatoes, a greenhouse made entirely of windows, a shed made entirely of doors (‘How do you know which one to open to go in?’ says Dad), rotting planks standing, leaning and lying for no apparent reason at all. There are animals. Chickens cluck, geese squawk and goats stand silently chewing.

We reach our plot. I stare at a chest high thicket of nettles and something I will later find described on the Royal Horticultural Society’s website as ‘a major weed problem’ – Himalayan balsam.  Plot number two: our Yorkshire allotment

Faced with the reality, Dad will  turn the offer down. Surely. He stands, teetering slightly.

I prompt him in a suitably morose tone. ‘Looks like a lot of hard work.’

He grins. ‘That’s the beauty of it.’


‘It’s in such a state they’re letting us have it free for the first year. It’s a beautiful spot, isn’t it? Is that a blackcurrant bush in the middle?’

I peer but see only the powdery green hue of flowering nettles. I am sure Dad’s appreciation of the beauty of the spot is less to do with the trees and the river and more to do with the fact it isn’t going to cost him a penny.

‘What do you mean, ‘us?” I say.

‘Well, you’ve always been interested in the idea, haven’t you?’ Without waiting for an answer, he goes on ‘even if all we ever do is pick blackcurrants, we’ll still be quids in.’

Now is the time to make my position clear. I have neither the time nor inclination to take on a project like this. The only vegetables I recognise in growing form are potatoes and peas. Mr Mandy Sutter has zero interest in becoming a man of the soil so we can’t count on him for help.

But on the other hand, I haven’t seen Dad so enthusiastic about something since Mum died three years ago. And a heady, reckless feeling is on me, a known accompaniment to many a doomed new project. Perhaps I can write about it, I think. I find myself turning to him and smiling.

‘It IS a beautiful spot,’ I say.