Allotment holders up close

This is Ron Buckman, local allotment site representative and Grand Old Man of allotmenteering. Normally, when we use the term Grand Old Man we’re talking about a star of the stage and screen, a theatre impresario or a literary lion, but it fits Ron extremely well. Not only has he had an allotment on our site for over twenty five years, but prior to that he had allotments at two other sites as well – it’s a lifetime of experience and it shows when you see his plot, which is workmanlike, thriving and productive. He’s a Grand Old Man for another reason too – have a guess how old he is?

Ron is also very modest about his achievements, which are not just about being able to produce good crops from his land – as you can see, he’s been recognised for his contribution to the world of allotments generally. He’s a stalwart of the shop, where we buy our various supplies and provisions, he’s a fount of information about what to grow, where, when and how, and he is the repository of local history about our site and its characters and development over many years. Walking round the site with him is an education – he seems to know almost everybody we pass, and he can sum up the history of nearly every plot, tell you its soil conditions and what its been used for in the past, and what has succeeded and failed on it, drawing on his in depth knowledge of the land and its users.

I’ll be describing in detail how Ron grows his unbelievably large and highly-scented sweet peas a bit later in the year, so that we can all have a go at emulating his methods, but in the meantime he has one piece of wisdom for all new allotment holders which is worth bearing in mind. “To keep a plot going,” Ron says, “you need to put in about ten hours a week. A lot of people come here, clear their plot, plant a crop and expect to come back in a couple of weeks and find something growing – they won’t. You need to put in the time at the beginning, and then you get something out at the end.”

It’s a statement that’s true about most things in life, but you don’t often get such a detailed prescription for success, so when it comes to an allotment, ten hours a week is what you need, and Ron should know.

As to how old he is, I still don’t quite believe it myself, especially since I visited his plot and saw how much of it he’d dug over ready for planting, but Ron is actually eighty seven – and if that’s not evidence for how good allotments can be for your health and fitness, I don’t know what is!

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Tuesday, July 17, 2007

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