Allotments have been part of the British landscape for around 200 years. The Allotments Act of 1925 gave local authorities a statutory responsibility to protect the land on which the urban poor might grow their own food. In the middle of the last century, they tended to be the preserve of the flat-capped working-class male; he would grow the carrots and spuds and her indoors would cook them. Later, families and foodies contributed to an allotment revival.
Like the community of writers, allotment holders are highly supportive bunch: when I started mine, the old hands couldn’t resist stopping by to tell us what we were doing wrong. Now I do my growing in my own garden, but I still rely on the lessons – and repeat the same mistakes, according to my husband – that I learned back then. And, because writing is like gardening, I’ve written allotments into a couple of my short stories. Plastic, just published by The Treacle Well, pays homage to the allotment tradition while raising concerns about the threat of pollution to the soil on which we all depend. Albarello di Sarzana is a lighter read celebrating the communal side of allotments and the wonder of growing one’s food. In Stealing the Show from Nature, a gardening project on a much larger scale provides the backdrop to a rough patch in a marriage.
It won’t be long before I’m sowing seeds in the greenhouse again. In the meantime, it’s great to celebrate last year’s garden harvest along with this writerly one. Please share your thoughts below.