Sunday, 24 March 2019

Growing your own is good for you in so many ways

Growing your own is good for you in so many ways

HAVING an allotment not only offers the chance to grow your own produce but is also good for your health and the environment and provides an opportunity to socialise.

This explains why the Greencroft allotments next to Henley Cricket Club’s ground, off Matson Drive, is a hive of activity. There are only six out of the 108 plots that are vacant.

The site is managed on behalf of the town council by 67-year-old Lewis Every, who has had an allotment there for the past 40 years and loves it.

He says: “It’s absolute heaven — it’s such a nice place to grow your own fresh veg with no chemicals and the soil is absolutely pristine.

“It’s a beautiful place to go after work to do a little bit of digging and weeding and the kids absolutely love it.

“Sometimes I just go down there to have a look around and get away from it all really. It’s wonderful.”

Mr Every, who lives with his wife Elaine at Swiss Farm, off Marlow Road, grows only vegetables for his table and is still using his produce from last year.

“I’m still using my cabbages and sprouts,” he says. “We just go down there, dig them up and you’ve got fresh vegetables.

“My chillies are really hot because we had that beautiful summer — if you like a good curry or a stir fry they are beautiful.”

Mr Every, who was put in charge of the site 12 years ago, is keen to promote the other benefits of having an allotment.

“I think this is a way of life that’s getting lost,” he says: “People socialise with their phones and at coffee houses so I’m trying to put it out there that there’s another life rather than sitting around eating and drinking.”

Barry and Tania Tindall began renting a plot four years ago on the recommendation of a friend. The couple, who live in Milton Close, have fruit trees and asparagus beds on their plot and also grow squash, courgettes, peas, French beans, carrots, strawberries, blackberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, raspberries and goji berries.

They start planting in March and then harvest throughout the year until October.

Mr Tindall, 57, who runs his own recruitment company in Market Place, says the allotment provides gentle exercise in the fresh air and a break from his busy work life — and the produce tastes better than shop-bought fruit and veg.

He says: “My wife grew up in Russia and she spent a lot of time with her grandparents growing stuff so when I suggested having an allotment she said ‘go for it’ and since then we’ve really enjoyed it.

“It’s a good way to unwind. If you’re in business and you’re working flat out all week to stick your hands in the earth is very therapeutic.

“When you run your own business, especially in recruitment, you’re always on call so I go there and don’t think about work. I think about how quickly those weeds grow! It really is removed from real life and the commercial world.

“There’s health benefits too but you also save some money and it’s good for the ecology of the country.

“If you’re growing your own veg you’re not buying it from a shop with all that excessive packaging.

“When you’re actually eating something you have grown you know where it has come from — it hasn’t been tampered with and it hasn’t had insecticides sprayed all over it and it tastes better.

“We’ve still got a lot of home produce — squash, potatoes and courgettes — in the shed. We have boxes and boxes of redcurrants, blackcurrants and raspberries. Every day there’s something Tania cooks that we have grown.” Mr Tindall also likes the location of the allotments.

He says: “It’s next to a cricket pitch and a pub so what more could you want? We spend three or four hours on the plot and then have a beer at the Little Angel and watch the cricket — it’s a good day out!”

Mr Tindall says the other plot holders are welcoming and helpful, always willing to share their knowledge.

“You have got to put a bit of effort in,” he says. “If you think you can grow organic veg overnight and feel great, it’s not like that. You have to prepare the ground and water it — but it’s worth it.”

Mandy Taylor, 74, who lives at Mount View Court, Henley, first became involved 11 years ago helping her friend Doug Godfrey tend to his two large plots. When Mr Godfrey died in 2014 she took over.

Mrs Taylor says: “As I had helped him for a few years and enjoyed going down there and as I live on my own with no garden, I carried on.

“I absolutely love putting a seed in the ground and watching it grow. You just can’t believe the size of the plants from that tiny little seed.”

Mrs Taylor freezes a lot of her produce so she is never short of healthy food in winter.

She now looks after two other smaller plots next to hers after the tenant had to give them up to look after his sick wife and then died himself.

Mrs Taylor says: “He was going to have to give it up and I thought that was such a shame. I said ‘how about if I dig them and look after them for you?’

“We stayed good friends and I used to give them some of the vegetables I’d grown because it was his plot at the time.”

Katy and Rob Dickie have had an allotment for about two years.

Mrs Dickie, 54, who works in global human resources, says: “I liked the idea of being able to grow some of our own vegetables and I’m a keen cook.

“I have quite a demanding job and I work some unsociable hours and this struck me as being something to help with the work- life balance.

“I do like being away from hustle and bustle and the peace and tranquility down there.

“We have got a reasonably-sized garden but it’s quite overshadowed and some things just don’t grow very well there.”

The couple grow potatoes, carrots, courgettes, squash, beans, artichokes and beetroot as well as dahlias and sweet peas which they like to give to friends.

Mrs Dickie says: “Flowers, particularly, are really expensive if you buy them. They make really nice presents and there’s nothing nicer than giving someone flowers if they have not been well.”

Last summer’s heatwave made growing conditions tough and their root vegetables did not do well but normally the couple are able to eat their own produce daily in the spring, summer and autumn.

Mrs Dickie says: “I think we’re incredibly lucky in that there’s not a waiting list because in most other places there’s a huge wait for a plot.

“But you shouldn’t take on an allotment lightly — it’s at least seven hours of work a week between March and September. It can be quite a lot in terms of investment too — you have got to get the seeds and the soil.

“But there’s an element of calm and being able to achieve something so it is good for your overall wellbeing.”

There are currently six vacant plots at Greencroft but the council also rents out about 100 plots at the Waterman allotments, off Reading Road. They cost betwen £17.50 and £44.50 a year to rent but you must live in or near the town.

For more information about the Henley Allotments Assocation, visit www.henleyallotments.com

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