Today I want to use this blog to share something about another community story – the Save Farm Terrace campaign, set up to save some allotments in Watford. Nowhere near where I live, and nothing to do with books, but it touches on something that will be a central part of The Tree House, and shows both the importance and the fragility of community, non-profit ventures.
You can read Pete and Wendy’s story on the original blog, with photos and of course all the other pages on that blog, but I’ll also post the whole of the story here.
PLOT 25 PETE AND WENDY’S STORY…….
Wendy and I are life time residents of West Watford.
A job opportunity was presented to me as I was approaching retirement. It meant I could walk or cycle to work. Then I discovered the allotments. I was hooked straight away, the nearest available, Farm Terrace, was only 170 meters down the road from work.
Venne Vidi Vichy! We took our pick and we started working plot 25, an over grown meadow. In a short time number 26 became available and Wendy decided to enquire. Within a week she was also a tenant of Farm Terrace. It didn’t stop there. Clare, our eldest daughter who was always down there helping, decided to have one of her own, enquiring about plot 7. Opposite plots 25 & 26 and on the top terrace it was a tougher project, more brambles but we all pulled together and made great roads into taming the land. Pioneers or what?
The freshness and taste of the produce we produced was excellent. The bird life, flora and fauna where amazing. We have not seen any rabbits down there since about 2001. We don’t see as many voles as those first years. Watching the family of foxes emerging from their earth beneath my daughters shed, playing and gambling like new born lambs was a magical experience. The birds that inhabited the trees and bushes behind the rough ground of plots 5 to 10 were beautiful. Seeing my first ever grass snake just two or three years ago, in a pond, I made, on my plot, well it doesn’t get much better.
The value for money of these plots was wonderful and the view from the upper terraces, towards the south and west is superb. When you open the gates to Farm Terrace, your heart lifts and so does the temperature. We have lost count of the number of times we have described it as Heaven on Earth.
The first year was really hard physical work but bringing this ‘meadow’ back to cultivated life was so rewarding and satisfying.
We have been growing our own vegetables on the allotment for twelve years. We grow nothing out of the ordinary, everything you would expect on an allotment:
Potatoes, Onions, (red and white); Broad beans; Runner beans; Peas;
Mange Tout; Leeks; Brussels Sprouts; Cabbage, (red & green); Spinach; Cauliflower; Parsnips; Swede; Dwarf beans; Asparagus; Carrots Beet root; Sweet Corn; Globe Artichoke; Courgette; Rosemary; Thyme; Lemon Thyme; Mint; Sage; A 20ft Baytree:Salad crops, Lettuce Spring onions; Radish: Cucumber; Rhubarb;
Tomatoes (might give them up as a bad job!)Greengage; Raspberry; Strawberry; Rev Wilks Cooking Apples; Blue berry; Red currant; Black current: 2 small Eating Apple; Pear; Blackberry
The produce is usually very plentiful and if WBC could open their eyes and see what they have here they could produce fine healthy food for many of their citizens, or the hospital.
Our surplus produce goes to family friends, neighbours Then the surplus, surplus goes into Pete’s Whippendell Wine; Wendy’s Farm Terrace Chutney; Wendy’s Farm Terrace Jam; Wendy’s Farm Terrace Sauce
We go there for peace, solitude, fresh air, to get away from the TV, a change of scenery from the back garden, which although beautiful and well maintained is small. We are opposites; Wendy has a liking for privacy, whilst I’m a bit more gregarious and like a chat. So we have made a few friends and acquaintances over the years. Being terraced, unless you go ‘walkabout’ you don’t see plot holders from the lower levels. We are always ready to pass the time of day with anyone who wanted a chat.
Then things really changed. Watford Health Campus Partnership wanted to pinch some allotment land. After many meetings, there was a ‘gun’ holding us ransom to the emotional blackmail that the land was really needed to kick start the whole exercise for a new hospital. We would be the villains of the peace. It directly affected people on the top terrace, including my daughter on plot 7. Fortunately all plot holders were united in fighting to keep the allotments safe. But that wonderful triangle of trees, bushes, rose’s home to those beautiful birds, was lost to the development partnership.
In went the retaining wall; up went the block of flats; for essential workers at the hospital. We wonder how many tenants there are filling that role.
The peace, tranquillity and privacy gone. From not being overlooked, we now play to a full house. WE ALL REMEMBER THOSE FAMOUS WORDS – WE Won’t BE BACK FOR MORE!
Well, here we are, they want the lot.
If you work a plot, you know, it’s not just, blood, sweat, tears that go into the sod; it’s your heart and soul. We all have our lives to live. We all have differing agendas to work through. We would always pass the time of day and really enjoy that. What Mayor Thornhill has done, by approaching us in that manner in 2012 is to band a team of acquaintances into what can only be described as well honed, community based, fighting unit. United in our cause to KEEP FARM TERRACE ALLOTMENTS OPEN for the next 106 years.
That anyone would want to destroy a site like this is beyond belief.
Embrace them, nurture them, they are so valuable as what they are,
Pete & Wen
It’s a lovely and moving account, but also shows the need to stand up for community spaces and things that enrich people’s lives in ways that don’t generate income and don’t fulfil government plans and figures. My little second-hand bookshop aims to do something similar; but I also believe wholeheartedly in the need for allotments and in the profoundly enriching experience of growing things, let alone providing your own food, and in the way such communal spaces do bring people together. Do consider supporting Farm Terrace – read their blog, follow them on Twitter, raise awareness. People have shown how collective anger can force a company like Starbucks to review its attitude to taxation; when we get together the communal voice and actions are powerful.
Here is a link to the Save Farm Terrace petition – it doesn’t take a minute to sign it: