Starting a new life

January 2019 saw an unexpected, major upheaval in my life. No time for new year's resolutions! After twenty-five years of living in an old, rambling mill on the banks of the river Eden, I moved into a modern duplex apartment in a small town on the edge of the Lake District National Park. I left oak roof beams, seven flights of crazy stairs (every flight different!) and eccentric plumbing - not to mention the rising and the falling damp - for a clean modern building with straight walls, a walk-in shower and a huge room on the first floor with full-length windows facing south to the Lake District fells.  The downside is that there's an industrial estate between me and the hills. The units are mainly cattle feed and timber handling, and I find it interesting rather than obtrusive. It also made the rent affordable. The other downside is that I only have a balcony where once I had a large, mature garden.

Not that that has held me back!  As you can see, every inch is crammed with plants. Many of them were on the terrace at the mill, but quite a lot are supermarket rescue plants - I can't resist a wilting, unloved green-leaved thing with a 50p sticker.
My Window Garden.
I miss the river that has been the background sound to my life for more than two decades, and the wildlife. But lives change. I don't miss the fear that came with the rising brown floodwater, or the damp and the dust that triggered my asthma. But what I have missed most was being out in the fresh air, with my feet in mud, my hands in the soil, planting and pruning and watching things grow in my wild garden along the river bank.

But now, since June, I am the proud holder of an allotment. I contacted the local Allotment Association, having been told there was a waiting list and was surprised to find that they had vacancies on a plot near where I live. Five minutes from my back door!
An unloved, weed-ridden allotment. They don't come much wilder!
 It seems vast, and actually measures 10 poles (they still use medieval units!) which was apparently the amount of ground that could feed an Anglo Saxon peasant. I know my place. It has a rickety green shed, a soggy patch where the drains need repairing and a wonderful fruit cage full of overgrown, tangled fruit bushes.  Impossible to tell what's there until I can start hacking my way in once the leaves have started to turn in the autumn.

The Shed! More Anglo-Saxon peasant than David Cameron.

A tangled fruit cage - I imagine fruit crumbles and raspberries for breakfast - maybe next year.
The rest is overgrown and needs a lot of digging. But it is already, four weeks in, giving me a lot of pleasure. I've dug a flower bed to keep the bees happy (there's a bee-keeper on the allotment), planted a few perennials (supermarket rescue and cuttings begged from friends), cleared the earth for a herb garden and another for salad. 
Tentative beginnings. I found rhubarb!
Over the summer I aim to dig the rest and plant winter crops such as cabbages and turnips and rainbow chard.  It's a happy community.  I've already swapped a few tomato plants for some leeks and kale, and courgettes for eggs from neighbours who keep chickens and ducks.

Stuck the beans in any-old-how, but they've already sprouted.

The lone courgette - but already giving one a day.

The swamp in the middle.  Water feature?
This project is not just all for pleasure. The state of the planet and the economy is going to mean changes to the way we eat. The Anglo-Saxons knew a thing or two. We have to reduce food miles, reduce our meat consumption, and grow more of our own. My grandparents dug for victory;  I'm digging for the planet. I'm now working out how to achieve subsistence on my little plot and have plans for a polytunnel and some raised beds. I've been looking for a good book on allotment planning and maintenance for dummies  - there are so many to choose from.  Does anyone have a recommendation?


  1. What a pleasure to read! So much positive energy, leaning into the future.

    Sure do wish you the best Kathleen! And thank you.

  2. Wish you well in your new life Kathleen. miss our reading round group. Helen.


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