It’s been a busy month for Charlie and the volunteers down at our Community Allotments project, here in the heart of Chelmsford.  With the schools on Summer break, our band of willing helpers was depleted, but now that the new school year has started, we will soon have our weekly sessions running once again, and the overgrowth at the allotments back under control.
While it was a very wet August and our tomatos are running late this year, the conditions for the courgettes have been great and as a result we have a bumper crop of fresh organic courgettes that are being shared out amongst the staff and volunteers.  Our runner beans are also ready for picking and it’s time to life our beetroot too.  I took one home last night to cook and pickle and am looking forward to enjoying it with my sandwiches at the office in coming months.
The sad news is that during August both of our sheds on the allotments were broken into.  It’s sadenning and frustrating that mindless acts like this (nothing was stolen – just the shed doors and locks damaged) can deter people from investing time and energy into projects like ours.   We remain undeterred and both sheds have now been repaired, thanks to the efforts of Brendan, our most loyal volunteer.   This incident formed part of a wider range of attacks at allotments sites across the town, with at least one shed burned down on each of the town sites.  So, with just a couple of broken locks and a damaged wooden frame, we really got off quite lightly.
On a more positive note, we have trialled growing hops this year and Charlie and the teams effortsHops are spreading are now coming to fruition.  Charlie plants the hops in one of the raised beds, which we use to increase user accessibility to the site.   They really took to their new home and have spread rapidly upwards, and now outward, across the planter and the hops themselves are looking stunning (as seen in the picture, right).   I have no idea whether we will have enough or they will be suitable to produce a Wilderness Beer, but it will be fun trying!
The raised flower beds were created last year from a grant, with the award based upon creating better access for disabled people.   Over the winter months we want to further extend acess for disabled site visitors and are investigating ways  of improving the paths around the allotments to make them suitable for wheelchair access.   We are also putting together plans to redevelop the plot adjacent to the existing raised beds, providing an extended working area, with additional seating for breaks and quiet reflection, complete with a specimen of the much-maligned “water feature”!  I will bring you further updates as plans develop.
Down at the site today we are erecting the first of our two “new” greenhouses.  A local resident, who could no-longer manage her own garden, kindly lets us buy them at a considerably reduced rate, because she knew that wPumpkins will be ready for Hallowe\'ene would take good care of them and make the best use of them too!   It’s this kind of thinking, together with the looks on the faces of the kids when they finish their session each week, that make all the back breaking work worthwhile.
We still need more volunteers to help us, so if you have a few hours to spare each week and live in the Chelmsford area, please get in touch.
Oh and in closing, just to say that our Pumpkins are coming on well and will be ready in time for Hallowe’en.  More on that in next months diary.