Friday, 27 June 2008

Manor Gardens

To Leyton, London E10 - practically the other side of the world for a dyed-in-the-wool west Londoner like myself - for an allotment open day. Marsh Lane Fields is the new home for the Manor Gardens allotments, the ones that were bulldozed to make way for the 2012 Olympics. The old Manor Gardens site was a delight: hidden away, it was a secret place of old fruit trees, eccentric sheds and beautifully tended plots. Their new site, in contrast, is a shocker. An electricity pylon runs over it, a gasometer is round the corner, and half the site is a swamp because the contractors who were responsible for setting up the old Lammas land as allotments manage to compact the soil with their heavy vehicles, ruining the drainage and ensuring that it floods every time there is heavy rain. Marvellous.
The incredible thing, though, is how the indominatable allotment spirit shines through, despite all their setbacks. The oldest member of the Society, 86-year-old Tommy, has created a perfect allotment from scratch. Cynthia, a teacher who I met at the last open day a year ago, had no sooner got her new plot up and running - raised beds and all - than she discovered that it will probably have to be dug up all over again with a mechanical digger so that they can sort out the drainage. Despite everything she seemed remarkably cheerful.
Allotment folk? They are made of special stuff.

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