For one day each year, in the middle of July, we open our allotment site, Bowbrook Allotment Community, for charity. We open under the auspices of the National Garden Scheme so are proud to be in the famous Yellow Book. The choice was made to join the NGS because they raise money for caring charities, such as the Macmillan Nurses and Marie Curie. This is our second year of opening – in the first year in gale force winds and rain we raised £415 and this year on a dry day in the middle of the wettest of summers we raised £815 – so we feel a little proud! This means we have now sent the NGS £1230.
We chose July as the month to open as it seemed to be a month when we would be most guaranteed to have a spell of good weather to encourage visitors to come along. Last year we opened in heavy rain and gale force winds.
This year however after weeks of rain, we had two dry days coinciding with the day when we planned to spruce up and prepare the site and the open day itself. Although the whole area was very wet underfoot, plots themselves too wet to get on, some paths unusable and standing water in places, we felt the site looked as good as it could.
The day of the opening dawned bright and dry. The sun was shining and it felt warm. As we arrived early in the morning the car park was full and the site crawled with members working away. Soon the signs were in place, the gazebos up, the tea shop readied and the quiz pictures in place. We felt ready!
We were so pleased to see so many plot holders helping out in so many ways – true community spirit! The tea shop was stocked with dozens of cakes baked by members and the table under the gazebos were made attractive and welcoming after one member, Shirlie, created beautiful table centre posies, magazines were placed on them for visitors to read and our photo albums made available for their enjoyment.
As soon as the clock showed 1:00 our visited started arriving – it is always a relief when the first one comes through the gate. Each visitor was handed a map and suggested route, competition details. Children were given a quiz sheet requesting they find pictures of some of our wildlife hidden around the site, matched to their favourite habitats.
We invited our visitors to judge two competitions for us during their amblings, The Best Scarecrow and The Favourite Plot. The two following pictures show the winning plot and the winning scarecrow.
As we pride ourselves in designing our site and interest trail to be accessible to all we were pleased to see so many young families with toddlers or youngsters in push-chairs and people with mobility problems some using sticks or crutches, others wheelchairs or mobility scooters. We were delighted how easily they accessed the site and we received many compliments.
Our visitors enjoyed lots of free advice and even free strawberries and fresh peas straight off the plots. I spent most of my day as a mobile “Gardeners Question Time”, answering queries about pests, diseases and how to grow certain crops and identifying plants. I was handed a cabbage leaf with pests attached and a drawing of a “nasty, looking insect which looked like a dragon and was mostly black with bits of red”. I managed to identify the dragon insect as the larvae of a ladybird and the cabbage dwelling ones as whitefly. I suggested that the ladybirds should be encouraged to stay and informed the gardeners that they were very lucky to have them, but had to tell the cabbage growers that they were not lucky and advised them to get rid of their pests quickly.
Some of our friends from the Shropshire Hardy Plant Society organised a plant sale and many guests left happy with their bags or boxes of unusual plants.
Most visitors who came spent several hours looking around with occasional breaks for a sit while enjoying a tea and cake, with some staying for the whole four hours we were open.
“The Undergardener”, Jude used her teaching experience to good purpose showing young visitors interesting artifacts found by plot holders such as an old Wren’s nest and an aborted Wasp nest.
Several plot holders worked on their plots so that our visitors could ask them questions, others sat on picnic benches around the site to greet visitors and make them welcome.
When we closed and the last of our guests had left members rallied around and returned the site back to its former state. The tea shop returned to its function as a community hut, the gazebos were taken down and returned to their boxes, signs along the local roads were pulled up and put back into store. The RSPB and HPS volunteers packed up their goods and gazebos and said their goodbyes, and said they looked forward to our open day in 2013.
The last visitors to leave were these two characters who had spent the day sat comfortably in their thrones under the trees and greeted their subjects.
It had been a great day! Our visitors book contained some complimentary comments. We enjoyed reading them as they help show that we are achieving our aims. Here are some to examples to share.
“Fantastic, so much to see, great kids trail, thank you.”
“Completely lost in the interesting ideas. What a wonderful time I’ve had!”
“A truly inspiring place, wonderful for wildlife and kids.”
“Beautiful plots and welcoming tea and cake.”
“Inspirational model for all allotments.”
“Friendly, knowledgable gardeners.”
“Inspiring and clever ideas to encourage wildlife whilst giving plenty of space for produce. So much done in three years.”
“A great community space!”