We all have that something that makes us tick.
In this series, I'll be interviewing the Oh Comely team and contributors about the interests they pursue outside of working hours, be it baking, knitting or the major battles of World War II. I'll also ask them for some tips on how you could get started yourself, and who knows: it might lead to a new hobby of your own.
I began with our Deputy Editor, Rosanna, who spends her weekends on her allotment and is always full of gardening stories come Monday morning.
View from the allotment.
What inspired you to start your own allotment? Was it easy to obtain one?
In May 2007, during my second year at university, I put myself down on the waiting list for an allotment. On 2nd January 2013, I got a telephone call letting me know that I was top of the list. Today, the waiting list for a plot on our allotment is projected to be twenty years short. As soon as I had a plot, I decided it was only sensible to try and keep it.
How often do you go to your allotment?
I spend every Sunday on the allotment and like the rainy days as equally as the sunny ones. In the summer, we'll spend Saturday and Sunday there too.
What sort of things do you grow?
We've got many berry plants, other perennials such as horseradish and rosemary, and have just planted a bed of globe artichokes. I'm trying to convince the friends I now share the plot with to grow my favourite vegetable, Jerusalem Artichoke, but that's an ongoing battle since it has a rapacious root system, is an acquired taste and a nightmare to peel.
Rare Lewis Black potatoes from 2013's crop.
What are the difficulties in keeping an allotment?
It's a lot work, there's no denying it. Our plot is 20m x 6m. So far, we've not used a drop of weed killer, which means there's a huge amount of weeding to keep on top of and soil to feed and dig. Plots are inspected once a year, and if you're not growing enough then you get booted out. Our approach has been to go every week of the year, if humanely possible, and to do something however small.
What do you love most about your allotment?
I spent the best part of my younger life proclaiming--privately and sometimes publicly--that I never wanted to work in an office. Now that I find myself doing just that, arriving to work on Monday morning after a weekend of gardening and digging London clay makes me very happy indeed.
The site does feel quite rural, and that's really the best thing about it: the sense, upon arrival, of having left the city and its computer screens far behind. On the 18 acre site of approximately 450 plots, there's a well-supplied heap of horse manure, a scrap metal dump and a wee community shop selling soil and tools. Our plot is at the top of Knight's Hill, giving us one of the best views I've had of London, ever. Looking up in the middle of weeding, we see The Shard, Canary Wharf, and the Millennium Dome ostentatiously decorating the horizon line.
Mouldy allotment boots.
Tell us a funny story about the allotment.
I was talking to one of the older plot holders who's been gardening on the site for decades, and has multiple plots. I commented that sometimes I found it difficult to keep up with all the gardening work. He said, "I have plenty of thyme." I nodded my head vigorously, thinking his comment was in sympathy with my own, until I realised that he was talking about all the patches of thyme he'd planted on one of his plots.
How could I get started with allotmenteering?
If you want an allotment of your own, put yourself on the waiting list. Ten years down the line, you might be very glad you did. And if you want to visit an allotment, come on by! We only ask for 30 minutes of digging or weeding in return for chocolate biscuits.
Photos: Rosanna Durham.