Places of community where kindness and sharing abound

Torbay Weekly

I wish I had a pound for every time I’ve heard, and thought, 'where’s January gone?'

We are somehow into February already which, after a dry spell, has heralded the throat clearing of rusty lawnmowers cranked into action, often accompanied by belch of blue smoke.

My first real sense of spring has been sowing chilli seeds in the sunshine, after clearing the smoke of course.

I have also noticed a steady stream of familiar faces on the allotment when the sun is out.

Spring is closer than we think.

The allotment is an escape from modern life and the feeling of constantly being chased.

Sometimes I go down there just to keep still and listen to the relaxing wingbeat of my opposite neighbour's pigeons flying low overhead while always within reach of a mug of tea.

Of course, over time I got to know my opposite neighbour, Dave, who taught me so much about his beloved pigeons, plants and as much indeed about philosophy.

Everybody else said the same about him too.

This last sentence says so much about allotments.

They are places of community, kindness and sharing as much as the bare earth in which to grow flowers and vegetables.

I know I'm biased but I understand gardeners on the whole to be good people.

Allotments are concentrated pools of old-school community values where the only unwritten rule seems to be to always say hello under any circumstances.

If you don’t have one, or a garden, I would urge you to find your local allotment association and add your name to the list.

Now is a great time to take over an overgrown patch and learn to grow whatever you like to eat.

There are often plots available but the admin process might take a few months until you’re saying hello every other time you look up from digging.

Even better if you find one with a greenhouse or even a pond to attract wildlife with.

It's pretty standard that you will inherit a shed. One of my neighbours even has a wildlife camera and has captured so many different species I half expect her to show me a dusty herd of wildebeest stumbling out of the pond next.

Food is becoming more expensive as we keep hearing, in addition to the scientifically agreed health benefits of whole foods.

Growing what you like to eat will tick off both of these, making a positive difference to your life.

Allotments are cheap to rent for the year and will probably be the best value for money item you get in a decade.

You will be soon be fighting off unsolicited gifts of plants and heirloom seeds from your neighbours.

These seeds are often varieties that aren’t the watery homogenous ones we see in the supermarket but colourful and full-flavoured ones like purple carrots, Bangalore whippet chillies or Honeycomb tomatoes.

Growing flowers is also an option and if you are clever, you'll be able to grow something bright and colourful all year round.

Summer is always a rewarding time for allotment flower growers where annuals and perennials spectacularly join forces.

In terms of lifestyle and wellbeing, allotments meet all the mental, physical and emotional needs that are key to helping us thrive.

If you are worried about not having the time, you can easily maintain an average sized allotment in two hours a week.

Most electronic devices tell you the average screen time you use per day so imagine exchanging some of that for everything you need and more with added sunshine.

Allotments seem to be on the up in terms of popularity and are by no means the sole domain of older or retired people.

In my experience, and on my allotment, there is a diversity of people where the one thing they have in common seems to be the always saying hello thing.