Allot of stories!

Our allotments have sadly been under threat many times before, so we're collecting stories from allotment holders past and present, members of the public and residents of Didcot to uncover the community value of this space. Read the articles below and have your say.

 

What does your allotment mean to you? Share your experience with us and we'll feature it on our website!  

The battle for Broadway in 1990

 

In 1990 plans to build offices on the land occupied by Broadway allotments were defeated. As this article from (probably) the Oxford Mail of 23 February 1990 reports, the council's decision to seek outline planning consent and put the site on the market "sparked a furore" amongst residents (click on the image to make it bigger, and then again to make it as big as possible):

53 not out

Keith and Midge M. (Broadway Allotment)
With the Broadway site celebrating its centenary this year we have ourselves already passed our half-century of working an allotment there! Having moved to Didcot from Sunningwell (Midge) and Appleton (Keith) we initially had an allotment on the New Road site for about a year before moving to Broadway. At that time the Broadway site included the land now occupied by the Civic Hall and an avenue of elms ran down the length of Britwell Road (sadly cut down later due to Dutch elm disease). There was also only one water trough then so allotments near to it were highly prized.

 

 

Thinking back over our 53 years on Broadway many of our memories understandably relate to friend who are no longer with us. These include Pete Aldrich, Des Allan, Mick Belson, Les Betridge, Charlie & Ernie Cox, Bill & Reg Dads, Pete Dunce, Mary Talbot, Bob Waller and John Watson. Many of these were well known Didcot characters. It was not so long ago that Mary, who was also a stalwart of the Horticultural Society, would still load up her bike with our Brussels stumps to wheel home for her chickens.

There has always been a strong community spirit amongst the allotmenteers. Sunday mornings on the allotment was the time to chat and put the world to rights. A group of us took it in turns to sow cabbage seed on their plots each year and we have always been ready to help each other out when illness or unforeseen absence has struck. The allotment is also a family affair – our sons having helped Midge keep things going while Keith was, during the week, working away from Didcot for nine years. Back in the early 90s we heard that the Council was valuing the Broadway site and the allotment holders successfully argued against its disposal. History seems to be repeating itself and we hope that the outcome will be the same.

27, new to Didcot, loving my allotment!​

Katherine H. (Wantage Road Allotment)
We're new homeowners in Didcot and bought our first place in Oct. 2012. I grew up digging in the garden with my parents and grandparents - my late grandfather was a Horticultural Lecturer in Chippenham. I was really pleased to finally have a garden of my own and have spent the last three years getting it looking good.  Our new house is on a quiet, leafy close and one day our neighbours stopped by for a chat when we were working in our front garden. The next thing I know I have a lovely delivery of fresh vegetables waiting on my doorstep! I waited and waited until I saw my neighbour walking past with another big bag of veg and dashed out to ask him where he got it. Then he told me about the allotments just round the corner. Well, I was delighted! I applied straight away and thankfully there was a space on the Wantage Road site. I finally got a BIG, weedy patch to call my own in Sept. 2015 - three weeks after I applied! My other half and I got to grips straight away with the strimmer as it was fairly overgrown. We've since met so many lovely, helpful and very encouraging allotment holders and one even hand-scythed all the long grass down for me. Underneath all the weeds the soil was a joy to dig and we've made good headway preparing for our first growing season already. Other members of my family including my parents and parents-in-law have all pitched in to help tackle the weeds and everyone is keen to see what I can produce this year.

As we both work full-time we mainly visit our allotment over the weekends and it's so nice to be out in the fresh air after sitting at desks all week. I have no doubts that we have our work cut out keeping up with all the weeding and TLC required for running a productive allotment patch but we're going to give it our best shot.

At 27, you might think I don't fit the typical stereotype for an allotment holder but I would say that stereotypes are totally irrelevant and very shortsighted. If you love being outdoors, meeting new people, learning something new and RELAXING from a hectic 9-5 then allotment holding is for you (if you have a few hours to spare that is!). Anyone can do it! There are no restrictions to what you can grow and we love the freedom and creativity that allows. I plan to grow a selection of veg and flowers which I can cut and take home with me. I also love to sketch and paint, so being around the allotments with the abundance of flora and fauna is very inspiring for me. It is also one of the most peaceful places I've found in Didcot with barely any traffic noise and plenty of bird song whatever the weather.

Needless to say my entire family are absolutely shocked and very disappointed to hear that the allotments are at risk of being sold off so soon after we'd just got ours. Not to mention how hard we worked for many weekends trying to get our plot into a usable condition. Having only been a an allotment holder for a few months I can already see just how important green spaces like these are to our community. Especially since most of the allotment holders have owned their plots for years and have therefore lived in Didcot and contributed to the local economy for quite some time. It certainly feels like the council is ignoring the needs of some of our long standing Didcot residents and only favouring newcomers with this decision to sell. Personally, I would not be interested in being allocated a new allotment somewhere else. Having worked so hard to prepare the one I have - starting from scratch on an allotment which would likely be too far away, on totally un-worked ground and not within walking distance would be pointless (both to myself and also many Wantage Road allotment holders!)

The allotments provide a valuable community for many people who are simply not interested in hanging around at the local shopping complex at the weekends (much to the Council's disappointment, I'm sure!). I would like the Council to consider that the definition of valuable is not only of monetary importance, but something which is considered helpful or important. To me, the allotments are both, and an asset to the new 'garden town'.

Didcot and District Horticultural Association​

The Didcot and District Horticultural Association (DDHA) is a brilliant, if little-known, amenity, offering all the gardening essentials at extremely competitive prices. Based on Laburnum Grove, off Mereland Road, the shop stocks items such as canes, composts, feeds and fertilizers, fleece, fungicides, netting, packets of seeds, pesticides, pots, rooting powder, seed trays, silver sand, soil supplements and weedkillers, and also has in whatever you need to start growing at the beginning of the season - so, right now, there is a great range of seed potatoes, onions, shallots and garlic bulbs.

I've had an allotment in Didcot for 18 months, but have only just discovered this little-known gem in the town. Having found it, I won't be giving my money to the out-of-town garden centres any more for my allotment essentials! As well as great stock, the DDHA offers a lot of advice from experienced gardeners who run the shop on a voluntary basis. The DDHA's principal aim is to benefit all gardeners and their gardens in the area, and organizes visits and other events. Why not drop in to see what's on offer?

To use the shop, you have to join the DDHA, but since the membership subs are just £1 for the year (or 50p for seniors), this is a tiny price to pay considering the savings on offer!

Open Saturdays from 10am till 12 noon, and during the week from spring.

Value for non-allotment holders

Jackie & Geoff B., Didcot
We are Didcot residents and often pass the Broadway allotments on our daily walks. Even though we don't have an allotment ourselves, we enjoy experiencing the green space that allotments provide in the midst of otherwise built up areas and would hate to see them go.  In amongst the residential and shopping areas is exactly where they should be, contributing to the lungs of our town, where residents can work them without having to travel far and people can see food being grown locally, thus demonstrating sustainability by reducing the distance food otherwise travels.

 

 

Broadway allotments © Steve Daniels

We feel strongly that allotments are an important amenity in Didcot, and all our towns and villages, and should be fully supported by local councils for the following reasons:

  • Tending an allotment and producing food has many physical and mental health benefits, not only for the allotment owners but also for their wider circle of family and friends as they share their surplus produce.

  • Allotments can provide those who may not be able to afford fruit and vegetables at regular shop prices with a cheap source of these healthy foods.

  • Not everyone wants to or is able to go to the gym or participate in team sports for their exercise, and allotments are just as valuable a source of healthy fresh air and exercise as the sports centres and outdoor gyms that local councils often support financially.

  • Allotment owners often involve their children from a young age in growing their own food, and this helps educate our children about where their food comes from. It also encourages them to eat more healthy fruit and vegetables, something that the Department of Health is spending our money to try to achieve in these times of escalating healthcare costs caused by poor diet.

  • The food that is grown on allotments is consumed locally, which helps to reduce the environmental impact of transporting our food.

The benefits of allotments therefore go much wider than providing a few individuals with a plot of land to grow food on. This value was fully recognised by the Department for Communities and Local Government in January 2014 when it published new guidance strengthening protection for allotments and introducing a range of measures to help communities who want land on which to grow fruit and vegetables (source: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-response-to-a-petition-on-allotment-duties).

In conclusion, any council decision to reduce allotment provision would not only be shortsighted but very probably in contravention of its legal responsibilities.

An Artist’s View, from Linda Benton

From Linda Benton:

I am a local artist and I have worked in and around Didcot since the early 1980s. The allotments have always inspired me; the mixture of vegetable and flowers, the neat rows and the slightly overgrown “gone to seed” patches, the homemade sheds, and the little places to sit in the sun, all set against a backdrop of the houses.

The Broadway and the Wantage Road allotments feature most because I can wander in freely.

The allotments are a productive haven away from all the bustle of life, a breathing space away from the traffic, and such a wonderful place to draw, paint, and photograph. I feel they are an integral and essential part of the town for both the allotment holders and for those who just look and enjoy as they pass by.

Broadway Allotments © Linda Benton

Didcot's historian on his New Rd plot

 

 

Brian F. Lingham, formerly of New Road
I took over my first allotment on the New Road site back around about 1979. At that time, there were no houses around the site, only open fields to the east and New Road to the west. I then had two allotments, which I had to give up, when the Town Council sold half of the site for housing development -- Sandringham Road now runs through my former allotments. I was given in exchange a further two allotments higher up on the site towards East Hagbourne and near the present fence. The Community Hall and its associated car park also stand on former allotment land.

The Council sold the land in about 1981 in the face of vociferous opposition and, despite a rowdy meeting at the Civic Hall, the authority had its way, and the land was sold for the housing development; it now forms part of a housing estate. Unfortunately, at least two other allotment sites were sold off before that of New Road. For instance, half of the hospital site was also sold off -- to the NHS, to enlarge Didcot Hospital. That occurred again in the early 1980s.

At that time, I knew all the older allotments holders, such as Reg Chambers and Joe Woodley; all now long gone. Chambers had taken over his allotments back in the forties; and Joe’s allotments had been in his family since the 1890s. It was Joe who led the opposition to sale of part of the New Road allotment site.

For the history of allotments in Didcot, see my book A Poor Struggling Little Town, where for instance you will find that the Broadway allotments were bought by the Didcot parish council in 1933, from Queens College and Dennis Napper, who sold the land in a spirit of public service and at a very low price, reflecting this sense of philanthropy.

DAAG is very grateful to Brian F. Lingham for kind permission to reproduce some relevant paragraphs on the circumstances of the acquisition of the land of the Broadway site on the page Didcot's history and heritage.

Bringing our busy family together

Elaine P., New Road
As a busy family our allotment is something that brings us all together. We choose and plant our crops together, though Tim does the heavy work. Won't let me loose with the rotovator. Not sure why, could be my clumsiness.But our allotment does not just serve us: we like to share our crops with our family and my nephew who is 4 loves to come and dig, plant and pick the fruits of our labours.

 

 

An allotment is not just a summer venture. It takes years and years to cultivate the soil and this will be our third summer at New Road so hoping this year we will see better crops after the last two years spent nurturing the soil.

If Didcot is supposed to be renamed into a garden town I can't see why they want to remove even more green spaces!

If I wanted to live in a built up city I would have moved, but I want to bring my children up in a town where you know your neighbours and there are spaces that are looked after where they can spend time.

 

 

An allotment is not just a summer venture. It takes years and years to cultivate the soil and this will be our third summer at New Road so hoping this year we will see better crops after the last two years spent nurturing the soil.

If Didcot is supposed to be renamed into a garden town I can't see why they want to remove even more green spaces!

If I wanted to live in a built up city I would have moved, but I want to bring my children up in a town where you know your neighbours and there are spaces that are looked after where they can spend time.

Bringing our busy family together

Elaine P., New Road
As a busy family our allotment is something that brings us all together. We choose and plant our crops together, though Tim does the heavy work. Won't let me loose with the rotovator. Not sure why, could be my clumsiness.But our allotment does not just serve us: we like to share our crops with our family and my nephew who is 4 loves to come and dig, plant and pick the fruits of our labours.

 

 

An allotment is not just a summer venture. It takes years and years to cultivate the soil and this will be our third summer at New Road so hoping this year we will see better crops after the last two years spent nurturing the soil.

If Didcot is supposed to be renamed into a garden town I can't see why they want to remove even more green spaces!

If I wanted to live in a built up city I would have moved, but I want to bring my children up in a town where you know your neighbours and there are spaces that are looked after where they can spend time.

 

 

An allotment is not just a summer venture. It takes years and years to cultivate the soil and this will be our third summer at New Road so hoping this year we will see better crops after the last two years spent nurturing the soil.

If Didcot is supposed to be renamed into a garden town I can't see why they want to remove even more green spaces!

If I wanted to live in a built up city I would have moved, but I want to bring my children up in a town where you know your neighbours and there are spaces that are looked after where they can spend time.

The long road to a career on Broadway

My first encounter with allotments was in the 1950s when my dad tried, with limited success, to get me to help him with the weeding on his nearby plot. Not an attractive proposition for a red-blooded youngster.

About forty years later my wife took on an allotment and I rather reluctantly gave her a bit of help at weekends. I started to realise that the time on the allotment helped me with my work as it allowed me to give concentrated thought to problems that were proving difficult to resolve in the pressurised working environment.

When I got back from work one evening my wife slipped into a conversation that, by the way, she had taken on another allotment. “Are you bonkers?” I retorted. Whilst I had been more than happy to benefit from the produce, I had not been planning to spend more time as her allotment slave.

However, after I retired I found that I was spending more and more time on the allotment. No longer able to waste much of my life on a range of sports I was finding it a great method for keeping me fit and providing me with a sense of achievement. Having now retired, the allotment has become a major part of my life and, as I write this story in the depths of winter, I now look forward to spring on the allotment with enthusiasm rather than trepidation. My wife now has to continually remind me who (she thinks) is the Head Gardener!

 

 

Restore: working for mental health

The mental health charity Restore runs the South Oxfordshire Recovery Group at Fleet Meadow, a 30-plot site on New Road allotments. This offers a therapeutic work environment that is supportive, creative, purposeful, and fun. Restore's work at Fleet Meadow was established in 2004, with the full support of Didcot Town Council. The charity's describes its work as follows in its website:

"Based near Didcot we offer opportunities to socialise and learn new skills in horticulture, woodwork, art and crafts. Members have been cultivating our two-acre site, including orchard and vegetable beds since 2005. Members decide together what activities they will do.

Members have opportunities to gain insight into their strengths and consider positive changes they wish to make. We acknowledge that this can be hard work, so regular time is set aside to reflect on how things are going, both as a team and as individuals.

We support people with mental health issues in Oxfordshire to recover and get work.

We provide a range of mental health support services including coachingrecovery groups and training."

 

 

Adrian Smart's prize-winning 'Shed Light'

The artist Adrian Smart paints stunning, hyper-real, watercolour portraits of birds and other wildlife which allow close examination of their beauty. He had been interested in painting birds since childhood and studied at Reigate Art College.

The first of his many awards was winning the PAW (Paint A Wildlife Subject) competition in the watercolour category in 2001 (or 2003?), beating 1300 other entrants.

The winning painting, titled 'Shed Light', was a finely detailed study of a red admiral butterfly on the weathered door of a shed at New Road allotments behind his Didcot home.

In 2002, Adrian exhibited his work in Didcot Civic Hall, and his work has subsequently been exhibited at the Design Centre in London, the Old Stable Gallery in Wallingford, the National Exhibition of Wildlife Art, Modern Art Oxford, the Steventon Gallery in London. Adrian Smart is represented by London's Plus One Gallery.

 

 

Adrian Smart's prize-winning 'Shed Light'

The artist Adrian Smart paints stunning, hyper-real, watercolour portraits of birds and other wildlife which allow close examination of their beauty. He had been interested in painting birds since childhood and studied at Reigate Art College.

The first of his many awards was winning the PAW (Paint A Wildlife Subject) competition in the watercolour category in 2001 (or 2003?), beating 1300 other entrants.

The winning painting, titled 'Shed Light', was a finely detailed study of a red admiral butterfly on the weathered door of a shed at New Road allotments behind his Didcot home.

In 2002, Adrian exhibited his work in Didcot Civic Hall, and his work has subsequently been exhibited at the Design Centre in London, the Old Stable Gallery in Wallingford, the National Exhibition of Wildlife Art, Modern Art Oxford, the Steventon Gallery in London. Adrian Smart is represented by London's Plus One Gallery.

 

 

Thoughts on my allotment

Jennie H. (Cockcroft Road Allotment)
In July 2003 I was looking forward with some apprehension to my forthcoming retirement, how was I going to fill all these extra hours? By chance I heard Terry Walton discussing his allotment in the Rhonda on radio 2, could this be the answer for me?

My father had always grown all of our fruit and vegetables in our large garden in Derbyshire, and following in his footsteps at a previous property, I had converted half of my garden into a mini allotment. Now was the time to go for the real thing!

I contacted the office at the Civic Hall and was put on to a waiting list. Finally in March 2004 I took possession of a plot on the Cockcroft site and embarked on a project that has become a large part of my everyday life, that I can’t imagine being without.

Through being an allotment holder I have met many like-minded people who are as passionate as I am about providing ourselves and our families with fresh fruit and vegetables that have not been contaminated by modern farming methods. Any surplus produce is turned into jams, chutneys, or frozen to see us through the long winter months.

We also benefit from the fresh air and exercise which is a by-product of working on our allotments. From my experience, allotment holders tend to be in far better health than their peers which in itself must save the NHS a fortune. We also make fewer trips to the supermarkets reducing not only our use of fuel but also our carbon footprint by not purchasing imported produce.

Contrary to popular opinion allotments sites are not inhabited just by the stereotypical elderly male pensioner complete with cloth cap and wheelbarrow, but females like me and increasingly by young women accompanied by their children. Responsible mothers are teaching their children where and how the fruit and vegetables they eat are grown. Surely this is a positive and hopefully these experiences promote an awareness of the world around them that no housing estate could ever do.

I am very concerned by the thought that these sites might in the future be used for building, and lost forever! For a council, whose town has just been granted ‘garden’ status, even contemplating the removal of the ‘green lungs’ of Didcot, beggars belief.

New Road supports League of Friends

JFor the first two years of the Didcot Town Fayre, New Road allotments set up a stall on behalf of Didcot Town Council to promote all the allotment sites in Didcot. Members of the public made donations for the vegetables and the money was given to the League of Friends at Didcot Hospital. As you can see from these photos, allotment holders Lawrence and Phil also had a great time!

My little green oasis

E.B., New Road
The year was 2001 and my full time job was sitting in a chair from 9 to 5, five days a week. I was overweight with blood pressure. What could I do about it? A friend of mine said, "You really love gardening, why don't you rent an allotment?" Living in a modern house, the garden had never been big enough for me -- but that's modern housing developments.  I popped to the Civic Centre and paid for an overgrown allotment. I began digging in January and by May the whole plot was ready. By the end of the year, watching my diet, plenty of exercise, fresh air and home-grown vegetables, I lost three stone and my blood pressure was pretty well back to normal!!

But the very best thing -- my own vegetables! Potatoes, onions, peas, broad beans, beetroot, carrots, courgettes, beans -- the list goes on. I love fruit, so two years later I began growing strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries and jostaberries. I make jam which is a great gift for friends. Surplus vegetables are handed round to my neighbours in the cul-de-sac.

 

 

My allotment is on the New Road site, right by the Fleet Meadow Community Hall and, even with 15 years under my belt,  I'm a newcomer compared to some of the allotment holders -- there are some who've been there for over 40 years. We have all become great friends and I get plenty of good old fashioned gardening advice. I find I learn something new every year.

I love my allotment and I'm devastated to think that the Town Council is considering selling off any of the allotment sites in Didcot.

I'm a member of DAAG which is fighting to stop the Council selling allotments, and any other green spaces, to replace them with more development. Over 15,000 houses are to be built in and around Didcot over the next few years -- do we really want our green oases to disappear? We have waiting lists for our allotment sites -- it makes sense we need even more!!

Come and visit our allotment sites in Didcot and see how excited we get when the seeds pop their heads out of the ground!

An education for me and my children

Mocky K. (New Road Allotment)
As a newbie to Didcot, I wanted to enjoy the more relaxing environment and life away from the urban jungle which is London. I looked at ways I could embrace my new surroundings and life that fitted me and my young family.

 

 

The allotment seemed ideal and it is was even better that it was at the end of my road. The allotment at New Road has been a great experience and an education for me and my two girls aged 3 and 6. We now know how onions grow, that a tomato plant can also grow potatoes (its true!), weeds are a nightmare, fruit and vegetable grown taste better and also the allotment is a great place to have fun and get dirty. We also learnt that the shed is a great place to hide and also shelter from the rain!

My girls planted broadbeans and they grow so quickly and high that we thought that we would soon be meeting the giant at the top!

Personally, I have benefited as all the digging has given me some exercise, some quite time away from the busy work life and allowed me to meet new people in the community who are always ready to give me tips for my allotment -- the funny thing is that no one gives the same tip!

I see the allotment as a great community asset and the green lungs of Didcot. It cannot be removed. As they say, ‘when its gone, its gone!’

The most relaxing & optimistic hobby

Peter Philips (Mereland Road Allotment)
Have you ever picked a big bucket of runner beans on a still summer evening with the bees busy in the flower border and the church bells ringing in the distance? If you have you will know just how perfect life can be. It may not be scuba-diving in the Caribbean but it's an experience not to be missed just the same.

If you have sat by your Grandmother helping her to shell peas fresh from the garden and eating most of them yourself or staggered along with a full can of water helping your Grandad then you will know how family memories are made.

 

 

What do I grow? Well, raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, blueberries, little new potatoes with skins you can rub off with your thumb, carrots, onions, shallots, garlic, kale, cabbage, curly kale, sprouting broccoli, broad beans, peas, parsnips, swede, tomatoes, sweetcorn, runner beans, French beans, borlotti beans, lettuce, radishes, Chinese leaf, celery, Jerusalem artichoke, herbs, marrows, courgette, beetroot, squash, spinach, chard, flowers for cutting and for the bees, with hopes for new varieties this year.

Of course it's cold and muddy some of the time and the bugs and slugs get to everything (when the birds and muntjac leave some) but it's still the most relaxing and optimistic hobby you can have. You are always planning ahead and thinking of the future and there is always someone around to put the world to rights with. Good advice can always be had at the Horticultural Society shop and you can keep fit (or at least a bit fitter) and get plenty of fresh air and good eating.

You will need a few spare hours every week but if you can manage it come and join us. You will be very welcome.

What do I grow? Well, raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, blueberries, little new potatoes with skins you can rub off with your thumb, carrots, onions, shallots, garlic, kale, cabbage, curly kale, sprouting broccoli, broad beans, peas, parsnips, swede, tomatoes, sweetcorn, runner beans, French beans, borlotti beans, lettuce, radishes, Chinese leaf, celery, Jerusalem artichoke, herbs, marrows, courgette, beetroot, squash, spinach, chard, flowers for cutting and for the bees, with hopes for new varieties this year.

Of course it's cold and muddy some of the time and the bugs and slugs get to everything (when the birds and muntjac leave some) but it's still the most relaxing and optimistic hobby you can have. You are always planning ahead and thinking of the future and there is always someone around to put the world to rights with. Good advice can always be had at the Horticultural Society shop and you can keep fit (or at least a bit fitter) and get plenty of fresh air and good eating.

You will need a few spare hours every week but if you can manage it come and join us. You will be very welcome.

Fun food not in the supermarket!

And if you don't need any more convincing... check out these amazing veg! Perfect is boring don't you think?

Getting to sleep after a night shift

Chris P. (Broadway Allotments)

I love gardening but I have no garden and no car. My job involves demanding shift work and working on my nearby allotment early in the morning after a night shift helps me wind down enough to get to sleep by mid-morning.

Helping to cope with chemo

Thérèse F. (Broadway Allotment)
I am a keen gardener and spend a lot of time on my allotment to relax, get fresh air and exercise and produce fresh vegetables and fruit to feed my family and friends.

A few years back I was diagnosed with cancer and after surgery had to have extensive chemotherapy, which led to many unpleasant side effects. The little gardening that I was able to do at home helped me forget my trouble but I was unable to work on my allotment. Whilst my husband, who was not a gardener, looked after my allotment at weekends my fellow allotment holders rallied round to help him both practically and with advice.

This experience demonstrated the value of gardening on physical and mental well-being and also the community spirit that is a characteristic of allotment life.

Digging with kids ... and new to Didcot

Amanda W., Broadway

 

 

We're pretty new to Didcot, having moved here in 2014, but through getting an allotment within a couple of months of moving here we've got to know some really lovely people in the local community. Sometimes you hear that children aren't welcome on allotments, but this has not been our experience at all! From day one, people would come over and introduce themselves, giving us bunches of freshly harvested carrots, spare plants for our bare plot, and chicken wire for construction. Dare I say it, but Broadway is even friendlier than our much-loved old allotment site in Oxford, where we were before we moved here!

Broadway is a perfect location for us. It's about a third of a mile from home and with the walk through the park, past the school and the playground, the bowling club and the civic hall, you feel right at the heart of the community. We love the site, and feel that it sets a good example of healthy outdoor activity for schoolchildren in the playing fields of Manor School adjoining. Quite a special -- indeed idyllic spot, really and we feel very happy and lucky to be there.

Our children have always been around the allotment. Their first taste of food was a freshly picked raspberry! There is nothing more satisfying than rocking up with flasks of coffee, water bottles, snacks and sandwiches and hanging around for hours in the summer (and spring and autumn!) The best bit is harvesting. Coming home and unloading is a great feeling -- on a good day in the summer we'll have huge quantities of fruit and veg and it's nice to make chutneys and jams for friends and family when we've got a glut.

I didn't know anything about growing till I started. Neighbours on adjoining plots are always more than happy to offer practical tips, and you learn as you go. Things happen slowly so there's plenty of time to figure it out. My dream is to have a big enough garden to grow everything at home, but to be honest I'd really miss the sociability of our allotment neighbours who are always ready to have a chat and a smile! A great sense of community. Thank you, Didcot, for welcoming us!

Digging with kids ... a father's view!

From Derek S. (Broadway Allotments) 
My wife thought it would be a good idea to get an allotment a few years back. So we did, and it was good! I used to help my Grandad grow fruit and veg and I always remember it fondly as time really well spent together. After a season on a starter plot we got a bigger one, which was fine, but all of a sudden our twins came along and it became more difficult to find the time to get there as regularly, but we just about manage to keep on top of it and when we bring the kids along they have lots of fun in the outdoors, using their mini garden tools to follow what we do and walking around everyone's plots. We show them how to do everything and they really muck in. We enjoy teaching them about the growing cycle, and how to live sustainably and they have fun -- from chitting potatoes to digging them up a few months later and then eating them for their tea. And there really is no exercise like digging. You can really feel it, and it's great! This summer we put up a shed so that we can keep some kiddie chairs in there and some crayons, toys, and other things to occupy them so we can get an extra hour in here and there. Broadway is such a perfect location for us -- a third of a mile from our house so we can walk there with the children through the park. Couldn't be better.

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