Whitley gardeners enjoy the fruit of their labour

The Runner Bean Race begins Vivienne Johnson

Green fingered friends got together on Sunday afternoon May 25 at the Whitley GrowAllot Open Day on Meavey Gardens, Whitley.

The community allotment first opened its gates in the summer of 2012 when local residents got together to transform a piece of abandoned land in the centre of Whitley and Whitley GrowAllot was born.

‘We started out with about five 11 year olds who came along each week and we worked together in what was an unused space.’ said Isla Goldsmith, Garden Tutor. ‘We made raised beds and sowed seeds.

‘We had corporate help as well with groups of people from Thames Water and Prudential coming along in the early days. We now have about 20 people each week.’

Gardeners meet each Sunday between 2pm and 4pm. Starting with a growing workshop where Isla gives lessons on gardening subjects such as how to sow seeds, make compost or work out a crop rotation. Nature friendly growing methods are used on the plot.

After the lesson people get their hands dirty planting and weeding. When all the work is done the group stop for a cup of tea and a catch up and any harvest is shared between the workers.

Local grower Rupert Wilson lives nearby and remembers when the plot of land was abandoned and neglected. ‘It’s been really exciting to see the land develop into an allotment,’ he said. ‘Before it was just waste land.’

The site now proudly contains a poly-tunnel, permanent bar-b-q, shed, benches, tables and a bee colony looked after by bee keeper Imke Wilson. ‘The benches and the bar-b-q were made by Reading College Foundation Construction students as part of their practical exam.’ said Isla.

Visitors to the open day were treated to an outdoor seasonal cookery demonstration by local chef Robert Byne, who also helps to grow vegetables on the plot. Robert demonstrated how to make Nettle Pesto sauce whilst Nepalese chef’s turned produce from the allotment into mouth-watering traditional Nepalese dishes.

‘I’m keen to promote healthy eating,’ said Robert. ‘All these children were interested in the Nettle Pesto sauce so we must be doing something right.’

Desert was an interestingly named Beetroot and Chocolate Cake made by Robert’s daughter, Lucy and refreshment was served by Jay Hope who had made homemade ginger beer (but was keeping the recipe a secret.)

The community allotment is supported by Food4families who employ Isla. Her post is part funded through Thames Valley Housing and the Whitley Big Local project who received a million pounds from the Big Lottery Fund. They have also partnered with Trees for Cities, the Big Tree Plant and Local Food fund.

‘You are welcome to meet us at the allotment on Sunday afternoons.’ said Isla. As well as growing food you can also learn how to make your own compost turning smelly food scraps into a valuable resource.

Whitley GrowAllot can be found on Facebook at facebook.com/WhitleyGrowAllot and on 

Food4Families website at food4families.org.uk/Meavy.cfmPictures: Vivienne Johnson Last modified on Monday, 26 May 2014 07:48