Here’s something that you might not expect – an allotment might just be the thing to change your life exponentially. It did with mine. After struggling with good mental health and feeling like there was something more to life than chasing peaks I signed up for my first allotment.
Firstly, what is an allotment?
An allotment is a patch of land, generally owned by the local council, that’s split up into ‘plots’. Each plot can be rented out to local people to grow their own fruit, flowers or vegetables. They’re often known as – or are similar to – community gardens in the USA. There’s a long British history behind them but today, they’re ideal spaces to use to grow your own food and spend a little time away from the world.
Why I now believe they’re awesome places to be.
2019 hit me with a bit of a curve ball. I hadn’t realised for a long time that there was something big missing from my life: true contentment.
When we moved into our house I looked out on to the back yard and thought it was a pretty gloomy and dark space. I needed to get some greenery in there to cheer it up and make it look less… city.
From the moment I started to look after my ‘garden’ and specifically the moment my first sweet pea shoots started popping up, I became acutely aware that the process of planting and watching something grow filled me with something very profound. I felt content and at peace.
I needed more of that feeling and started wondering how to get a bigger hit. I googled ‘allotments in my area’. Low and behold google threw something up and I got in touch about putting my name down. I was assured that they wouldn’t have anything free for a good six months at least but within only two I had an email to say there was one available (I don’t know about you but it looks like it might have been free for quite a while…see below).
I never thought that there would be something that would fill me with as much contentment as heading to the mountains but this seems to have done the trick. It’s also made home feel much more like home.
Even the weeds (and there are a lot of them) couldn’t dull my excitement – even though we couldn’t actually do anything on it straight away anyway. We’d filled our weekends up right up to May and so decided to cover it all to try and kill those weeds off (hahaha, wishful thinking). It was the best option we had at the time though.
Fast forward a year and we’ve had a pretty good harvest of a few different things. The satisfaction of spending time planting, harvesting, preparing and having a final product in your cupboard or freezer is incredible. You’ve watched your plants grow and fruit throughout the year and it’s a really good feeling.
Popping down the plot to pick some tomatoes or beans or rhubarb for dinner this summer was like nothing else and I even had to admit to myself it was on a par with heading to the hills. There was no view other than the grotty industrial estate around the plot compared to wide open mountains but there is something life giving about having plants around you and the graft of having grown them and cared for them yourself. It filled a void I didn’t even realise was there and it has had a profound impact on my mental health and my day-to-day life.
I’ve felt lighter this year and more positive with a good sense of purpose compared to the black hole of 2018 and it’s 80% down to the allotment.
Remember, although it’s not summits, climbs and rivers, it’s still outdoors in the fresh air and don’t ever underestimate just how hard working on the plot is! You work up a true sweat.
If you’d like to follow my journey more closely, check out my instagram @MyYorkshireAllotment
It takes time. It teaches you patience and tests your wit and sanity at times. And do I have a clue what I’m doing? No… No clue! There’s no denying that it’s hard work but, oh my, the rewards are so great.
You’re constantly learning and challenging yourself when it comes to life of the allotment. It gives you a real appreciation of where your food comes from and how much work our wonderful farmers put in to growing our food. It teaches you which foods are seasonal and I’m a big fan of eating locally and seasonally – think twice about the avocados and tomatoes that are shipped across the world. But I digress…
Even over the winter period, you can have winter crops to tend, to be clearing the plot and preparing for the next growing season. We’re on hold at the moment as we may be moving plots – fingers crossed (although slightly heartbreaking after all the work we’ve done so far on our current one).
If you’re even remotely interested in having a go, I’d find your nearest plot site and get in touch. You’ve got nothing to loose and you never know, you might be surprised by how much you enjoy it!