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Edward Griffiths visits people who 'grow their own' on Skilling and Flaxhayes Allotments, Bridport

PUBLISHED: 16:02 26 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:02 20 February 2013

It's all in the housekeeping! Sue Arnold hoeing between the broad beans to ensure a good season's crop

It's all in the housekeeping! Sue Arnold hoeing between the broad beans to ensure a good season's crop

In his series in which he meets the people who 'grow their own' on the county's allotments, Edward Griffiths visits Skilling and Flaxhayes Allotments, Bridport

In his series in which he meets the people who 'grow their own' on the county's allotments, Edward Griffiths visits Skilling and Flaxhayes Allotments, Bridport


Waiting lists! Every Town Council has them and, responding to its residents' enthusiasm for fresh local produce, Bridport Town Council has done something about it. Recently, Bridport Parish had 40 residents waiting for plots on its Skilling and Flaxhayes sites, and surrounding parishes had another 41. Last year, in partnership with Bridport Allotments Society, the Town Council created 15 new plots, bringing its total to 118. Another 16 plots, including six with raised beds for disabled users, have now come into use at the St Mary's Church Field and Orchard project. Two more sites, with potential for another 30 plots, are in the pipeline for 2010.


So, what sort of allotment sites and conditions can new members expect in Bridport? I talked about this with Town Surveyor Daryl Chambers, Association Chairman Colin Sparkes, and plotholders at Flaxhayes and Skilling. Plots are generally 10yds by 30yds for 13 per annum, half-plots 6.50. Water is collected from the River Brit at Flaxhayes, but a water supply at Skilling costs 3/1.50 per year. A flood-defence bank prevents the River Brit from flooding Flaxhayes, and a deep valley entrains the river past Skilling. Flaxhayes soil is alluvial over greensand and clay, free-draining and with neutral acidity, but Skillings has more of the clay. Plotholders on both sites add lots of compost.


In early spring at Flaxhayes, 78-year-old Ken Northover spread about seven tons of farmyard manure that had arrived on an enormous trailer. Together with Nobby Clarke (or before or after - they couldn't quite agree), he was the first person to start when Flaxhayes opened in 1981. Now, with two greenhouses and two new knees, Ken's passion for home-made tomato soup means he grows huge quantities of tomatoes.


Chairman Colin Sparkes retired to Bridport in 1984, having always had allotments supplying fresh produce for his family. He works at Skilling and, according to Mrs Clarke, who has years of experience in these matters, the commitment to an allotment averages out at 21/2 hours every day for 365 days a year. Colin would like all prospective plotholders to know this before they start, although Bridport offers half-plots to newcomers as 'starter' plots. Later, if they're still keen, they can move to full-size plots.


One of the lady plotholders is Sue Arnold, who moved from Buckinghamshire to Bridport, already an experienced allotment grower, four years ago. At Skilling, Sue grows delicious purple-sprouting broccoli, broad beans, runner beans, spinach and everything for the dinner table, but badgers eating the sweet corn just before it was due for picking has removed this particular crop from Sue's repertoire. At Flaxhayes, they have a high steel fence protecting the site, but badgers still manage to decimate unprotected strawberries and carrots. So, be warned, they like sweet things!



To Do in June


Start lifting early potatoes. They're ready when the buds drop or the flowers open. Check they're big enough before digging them all up. If you intend to store them, let them dry on the soil surface first.



Top Tip for June


If you have a slug problem, don't leave fully grown potatoes in the ground. Keep putting down organic traps, like beer dishes. In Bridport, they don't use Palmer's. It's far too good to waste!



Top Plot Plants


Spinach is a bit temperamental but well worth


the effort. Sow spinach seeds from June to September for successive cropping. Sow directly into well-fertilised moist soil, between brassicas, as it likes shade. Steamed or stir-fried, it's delicious.

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