Immovable objects and a rotten shed

At this stage, we’ve got all the roots out and have made two piles of material which we are hoping to burn – the ash will be good for the soil.

Elisa and Rodney, from The Secret Garden,  arrived with a good collection of tools. Here’s a selection of their forks!

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Rodney attacked the larger of the mystery concrete posts. You can see in the film that he’s dug a couple of feet down all the way around it, and still it refuses to move!

From what we have uncovered so far, there are three layers of concrete (there may be more underneath that). So, it looks like someone has put concrete down, let it dry, put another layer of concrete down, let that dry, then put a final layer of concrete down and sunk the posts into it. The posts themselves are very solid looking pieces of wood held together with a substantial bolt.

There are no obvious signs of something being attached to the posts – no other bolt holes, etc. There is also another a smaller concrete post about a metre nearer to the fence.

What on earth the posts were or why someone put them there, we have no idea.

We have also started pulling the ivy off the shed. It looks homemade rather than being a bought shed and there are windows all the way round. So, someone has obviously been growing something in it, or at least planned to.

But, having uncovered more of it, it looks like bad news. We knew that some of the floor was rotten, and it looks like the eaves have both wet and dry rot. We’ll show more on the shed another day but I think it’s safe to say, we’ll probably need a new one.

One of the difficulties about clearing round the shed, is the bank at that end of the site. The shed is surrounded by what may have been compost heaps. It certainly contains a fair amount of rubbish as Elisa discovered:

Elisa pulls a broken piece of corrugated plastic from the bank surrounding the shed

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Rooting out the trees

Another day of hard work from our friends Elisa and Rodney of The Secret Garden. They really are doing a fantastic job of helping us to clear the allotment.

As you can see from the video tour, the major work today was to remove some of the big shrubs and dig out the two trees. It is a shame to lose a walnut tree but they grow very big and the council do not encourage tree growing. You can see why: trees cast shade and could take water and nutrients from neighbouring plots. We also want to start with a blank canvas so that we can maximise the potential our site. So, sadly, both trees have to go.

We were also very pleased to receive a donation of an incinerator from our good friends Anne and Alan Outram. This will be useful on an ongoing basis but we will probably need to have a big bonfire to get rid of everything we’ve been digging up.

According to the council’s allotment guide, bonfires are banned between 1 April and 30 September. Any bonfire that we have before April, must not emit smoke, fumes or other gases which are a nuisance. It is unlikely that any smoke would go onto a road because we are surrounded by houses. Our best bet is to have it fairly soon while the weather is cold and most people are not spending a lot of time in their gardens. If we have it during a weekday, it is likely that the people in the surrounding houses will be out a work.

Clearing the plot

view of the allotment on a cold afternoon in early January 2017

We made a bit of headway with trimming the choisia and brambles on our first visit. But at the rate we are able to work, we very quickly realised that we would need help. Neither of us is in the first flush of youth nor are we particularly able. With the best will in the world, transforming the allotment from overgrown wilderness to a blank canvas that could become a productive growing space is not something that we could do on our own.

To our rescue came our good friends Elisa Contreras and Rodney Williams of The Secret Garden. They got to work with great gusto. Using various hand tools, power tools, muscle and sweat, they cleared most of the vegetation.

Here’s a glimpse of the The Secret Garden team in action:

As well as working on the actual plot itself, one of the things Elisa and Rodney were also able to help with was the path to the plot.

Some of the access ways have not been well maintained. It’s possible to get through on foot but Andrew is a wheelchair user and we need about a metre to get the mobility scooter safely through. Things are particularly difficult at the moment because the ground is so muddy.

There is a lot to do, however, and we need to make sure that we don’t tread on the toes of our (as yet unknown) neighbours, so the access path is still a work in progress.