Shelley Verdon tells us why this small patch of land is what she holds most dear
Quite what possessed me to get an allotment with no experience in growing anything, I’m not sure, but I’d recently moved back home to my mother’s flat in 2015 after a stint working away. The allotment is on the River Mole in Surrey, nestled between farmland and a wholesale nursery. The first thing I planted was a wildflower meadow. That may seem unusual, but my decision-making about the allotment hasn’t been particularly rational. I wanted plants that would bring me joy.
So I toiled one early-autumn day, clearing the weeds, preparing the ground and then scattering the seeds. And then I waited. Not much happened and eventually, by late winter/ early spring, I gave up and threw some black plastic sheeting over the patch, thinking the area must have gone to weeds.
A couple of weeks later the plants were pushing up against the black plastic, trying to get to the light. I realised with delight that I had a growing wildflower meadow. The meadow is a mixture of cowslips, oxeye daisies, thistles, lady’s bedstraw, sorrel, ragged robin, buttercups and vetch. And the insects came. It started out with mayflies bobbing diligently above my meadow, followed by small beetles, hoverflies, bees, bumblebees, crickets, blackfly and ladybirds. I’ve been amazed at how much pleasure watching the insects gives me. Sometimes I lie down between my rose bed and the wildflower meadow to watch the bees and butterflies moving from thistle to thistle and listen to bumblebees vibrating in my apothecary roses.
My grandmother died a couple of years ago, then my mother was diagnosed with an illness and made redundant. I would bring her to the allotment on Sunday evenings, the evening our family used to get together before my brother and his family moved to Australia. She’s a barefoot and haphazard gardener, which is fascinating, amusing and infuriating to watch. She throws seeds without care, then proceeds to grow things that no one else on the allotments can.
I’m not sure how I’d have got through the last couple of years without the allotment. It has been a godsend. “Better than winning the lottery,” said my mother. I should point out, however, that neither of us has won the lottery yet.
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