Enjoying the fruits of their labours

Successful allotment holders (from Left) Allan Bentley, Michelle Ross-Rothery and Rod Stott
Successful allotment holders (from Left) Allan Bentley, Michelle Ross-Rothery and Rod Stott

EVEN on a day of horizontal drizzle and stinging wind, the Lillands allotments site at Rastrick is a fine place to be.

As a bumper growing season comes to an end, allotment holders are fully enjoying the fruits - and vegetables - of their labours. Cauliflowers, beetroot, runner beans, apples, potatoes, soft fruit and salad vegetables have been growing in healthy abundance and there are even grapes ripening in the polytunnel.

Gardeners break off from working on their plots to chat to their neighbours and swap advice and vibrant sweet peas and asters add a splash of colour on a grey day.

It’s been a successful year for the Lillands allotments with holders Allan Bentley, Michelle Ross-Rothery and Rod Stott taking the three top prizes for the best individual plots in a competition run by Calderdale Council.

The judges looked at the range of produce being grown, the maintenance of paths and sheds, the use of space and the effectiveness of composting.

Nationwide growing your own is undergoing something of a revival and, according to recent figures, there are more than 86,000 people on allotment waiting lists in the UK. Even at Lillands, which has 40 plots, all let, there is a waiting list of 18 names.

Rod Stott, who helped reinvigorate the run-down Lillands site in 1985, recalls that about eight years ago there were plenty of vacancies and members took over more than one plot - just to keep them tidy.

“But things have changed. People appreciate the fact that home-grown food tastes so much better and is so much cheaper than fruit and vegetables from the supermarket.

“It’s a sociable hobby and there’s always someone to have a chat to. I’m up here most days and even in the winter there are jobs that can be done.”

Rod’s 39-year-old daughter Michelle Rothery learned her gardening skills at her father’s knee and now keeps an impeccably tidy half-plot at Lillands.

“I used to go up with my dad when he had an allotment at Ogden Lane, Rastrick, and then I took my own plot at Lillands seven years ago,” she said.“I come up a couple of times a week to keep on top of things. My freezer is full of things I’ve grown and this year I’ve been making jams and bottling fruit. I’ve noticed that there are more women with plots here now and whole families come up together. There’s a real community spirit.”

Michelle attributes the rise in popularity of growing to ‘the Jamie Oliver effect.’

“I think more people are prepared to give it a go and learn as they go along. That’s how my dad started and now people come to him for advice. He’s our own resident expert!

“We’re all prepared to share plants and seeds and give away any spare produce if we’ve got too much.”

Unlike many allotments sites, Lillands has no formal committee running it and no-one is reprimanded if the cabbages start to look a bit untidy.

“The main thing is that people enjoy it,” said 70-year-old Rod. “It’s great that we’ve had a successful year, doing so well in the allotments competition and entering some of the classes at the Halifax Show, but the most important thing is that people get pleasure from their gardening.

“And nothing goes to waste here. We were recycling long before it was trendy.”

With people queuing up to take over plots and success in the council’s competition, the future looks flourishing for the hard-working allotment-holders at Lillands.