As we approach the allotment we know it might be out. And turning the corner we see it is.
Sarah has gardened here at Plot 44 Greenbank Lane Allotments for 13 years now. And it shows.
The messy, long neglected piece of scrubland she took on back in 2001 is now a mature garden. Not a neatly manicured well behaved garden, with the soul relentlessly weeded out of it. But a piece of land that has been long and well loved and looks like it.
And it’s Sarah’s. I don’t have a key and come here, like today, only by invitation. It’s Sarah’s version of Virginia Woolf’s dictum that:
‘Every woman needs a room of her own.’
Sarah’s room is a garden. And most of it is open to the sky. Today, as spring gets seriously underway, it is full of colour.
I know very few of these names, this is mostly Sarah telling me what they are as I put each one in the post here. I know she also knows when she planted them, where they came from and if she’s ever had to move them. She greets them all each year like well remembered friends.
A large queen bee seems to be following us around these flowers. Clearly very busy, Sarah thinks she’s looking for where to have her nest. Plenty of friendly places for her on Plot 44.
Allotments like this are our compensation in the working classes for all the land that the upper classes enclosed for themselves as they drove us into their cities to slave in their new ‘manufactories.’ It was reckoned that their average size of ‘4 poles’ (a measurement system only to be found on the back of old red exercise books) was just enough to feed a family of four.
Well this one has never been principally about feeding bodies, though some vegetables and fruit do get grown. It’s been more about feeding souls. Sarah’s in particular. Through her years of breast cancer treatment the place was her solace and retreat from waiting rooms and surgeries. And since those days, as she has been busy with her funeral celebrant work, her allotment continues to be a place where she comes, not to switch off exactly, but to immerse herself in her meditative space. That’s why it’s her’s and her’s alone.
Over the years she’s had help, from friends Brendan and Gemma, even sharing briefly with Gemma. And I’m asked in now and then to do specific bits of shifting around. But we all know who the head gardener here is.
When she’s not here we know there are plenty of other creatures who are. Including a resident family of robins, a cat or two and a fox.
Now the nights are getting lighter and the garden is coming alive with spring growth, Sarah will be here as much as she is at home in the next couple of months. Building up to May each year, when she more or less moves in. Her favourite time, in her favourite place.
She cooks here, round one of her fire places. And has now cleared her polytunnel of labour intensive tomatoes and peppers, so she can use it as a shelter. A place to sit and read – and sleep if she wants. Her place.