Page 55 - ALG Issue 4 2019
P. 55

      Bill Ward, who won a military medal in the First World War but preferred a life among his prized carnations, dahlias and chrysanthemums. After taking
over in 1951, the stickler for neatly
kept plots and paths presided over a resplendent and orderly site for nearly two decades. Gardeners kept punts at coveted wooden chalets on the banks of the River Leam, enjoying ‘the quietude’, as one plotholder termed it. In the 1960s, the highly scented Leamington Sweet Pea joined the shallots, onions and potatoes that were among the most popular crops on the site. The pea, which remains in catalogues to this day, is believed to have been created by St Mary’s member Norman Slater. The 70s brought harder times, with the growth of ready meals, supermarkets, foreign travel and home computers.
A new wave of migration, mainly from India, Italy and the West Indies, brought the fresh impetus that the allotments needed but this was hampered by hostile attitudes among the committee of the time. The authors chart the power struggles in the 80s and 90s to create a more welcoming place for women and people of different nationalities. Perhaps the biggest blow in the history of the allotments came with the Leamington floods of 1998 that washed away plots, huts and left one greenhouse in a tree.
But the tenants prevailed, creating a meeting place for people of different backgrounds who harvest crops from the traditional potatoes, carrots, parsnips and beans through to artichokes, fennel, methi, coriander, chillies and callaloo. Outdoor theatre, a
A new wave of migration, mainly from India, Italy and the West Indies, brought the fresh impetus
memorable cameo on Channel 4’s Shed of the Year and the presence of mental health charity MIND have all helped
the site blossom in the 21st Century. But the allotments have deep roots. Audrey McCallum, the granddaughter of original member James Ward, whose name appears in the 1912 allotment records, now tends his former plot.
The full story of the people, places and shifting times along the way are now traced for the first time in Twenty Acres and a River.
St Mary’s Allotment Association
*Twenty Acres and a River is priced £8.95 and will be available from the launch date of September 21 at selected local bookshops.
          Allotment and Leisure Gardener 55

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