When I was a very young child my father wrote and illustrated a story about Mr. P. Pig who passed many happy hours on an allotment. He had an assortment of gaily painted friends: anthropomorphic runner beans, peas and a cucumber; the latter being a railway guard replete with peaked cap and a whistle. He was a necessary character both in and on the plot because Mr. P. Pig’s gardening shed was an old railway carriage which regularly departed on secret night-time journeys. I loved and believed in this story because it had not erred too far from the reality I knew. My grandfather had an allotment on the right side of the prison wall in Aylesbury which he had inherited from his father. The shed was half a railway carriage with a door whose window was raised and lowered by means of a leather strap. It was a redundant acquisition from the London, Midland and Scottish Railway with whom Great Grandad had been employed as a basket maker.
The allotments at the Slough Lane junction, where Sandy Lane merges silently into Watery Lane, have been in existence for almost twenty years and comprise eighty plots belonging to Upton and Lytchett Minster Town Council. Previously, the local allotments were sited behind the British Legion clubhouse just off the main road. When that land was deemed prime for development, the allotments were relocated to the present site; acquired on a 99 year lease from Sir Thomas Lees. To the west, his land stretches across the arable fields of French’s Farm, onto the water meadows that border Holton Heath and across to the old cordite factory on the Wareham Road. To the north, his domain, divided by the A35, moves onto Upton Heath and meets with the Canford Estate. South of the allotments, it’s only a matter of a few hundred metres of wood-lined RSPB protected wetlands to reach the edges of the bay.
Sadly, I know very little about allotments but a couple of years ago I wrote an extended essay based on information given to me by some of the many Upton residents who enjoy this lovely area of calm. I recall Mabel showing me her shed that boasts a patio on which she and her husband sit eating chips and drinking cider on summer evenings with their dog, Harvey. And Lorna, who told me that, surrounded by her sweet-peas, carnations, white daisies and flocks, her favourite time is just before nightfall when she can hear the call of curlews and oyster-catchers from the harbour as the sun’s rays disappear. In these new pages, I hope to intersperse more news from the allotments in the future.