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National Allotment Week

Published on August 10th 2005.

Yesterday the computers crashed in the Manchester Confidential office, so when Gordo returned from his lunchtime “meeting” (we suspect it was really with a pie and a pint at Mr Tom’s Chop House) wanting to send me to cover an allotment story in St Ann’s Square, my excuse that I was ridiculously busy, busy leafing through this week’s Heat, wasn’t really going to wash was it?

I’ve never done any gardening in my life, I have a Dad. The closest I’ve ever come to a trowel was when I was thirteen and first started to wear make-up (I was so orange I wouldn’t have looked out of place stood next to an Oompa Lumpa). In my first year at uni I managed to kill a cactus, a clear sign that I’m not the next Charlie Dimmock (thank God). I’ve resigned myself to the fact that if I ever stop buying shoes and manage to save enough money to buy a house (which seems highly unlikely) I will live behind a jungle between the pavement and my front door.

The idea of being knee deep in soil, pointing my bum to anyone who happens to pass by doesn’t sound too appealing, and as for allotments, the only allotment I’ve ever seen is the one on Eastenders where Arthur died in the shed. To be honest, National Allotment Week didn’t sound like too much fun, at least it was in St Ann’s Square though, I could always look at the shoes in Office……..

I turned the corner into what’s normally St Ann’s Square and arrived in an allotment garden, complete with shed and scarecrow. The usual grumpy men in suits eating their Big Macs had been replaced by a team of smiley allotmenteers, green t-shirts to match their fingers.

The Manchester Harvest is a week long event, from the 8th – 13th August 8am – 8pm, promoting allotments and home grown food. The display in the square includes a model allotment and container grown foods for smaller gardens and patios, showing how a variety of fruit and veg can be grown at very little cost. Apparently all it takes is a bit of time, enthusiasm and the ability to deal with slugs, snails, blight and several other slimy creatures with a lot of legs (an ability I’m fairly sure I don’t have).

Whilst there are vacant allotments all over Manchester, at the Heaton Moor site 30 out of the 47 plots are vacant, things seem to be changing. As we become more and more concerned with healthy eating (as Body Confidential members know only too well) allotmenteers benefit from eating fresh food as well as regular exercise. Apparently more and more young people are going organic, especially young women who are trading in their wedges for wellies.

For those of you who aren’t too sure if something home grown is going to taste any different from what you buy down at Tesco’s get yourself down there on Saturday after 4pm when the volunteers will be giving away all the veg that has been grown! There seems to be plenty to go round – chillies, corn, tomatos, potatoes, leeks, cabbage, rhubarb, garlic…..you name it, they’ve grown it.

And, for the ones amongst us who aren’t too sure what to do with this abundance of veg (my cooking skills are similar to my gardening skills – none) then there are cooking and tasting demonstrations going on all week, just get yourself down to the square and pick up a leaflet.

If you’re interested in an allotment (for the bargain price of just £51 per year) call 0161 226 3322 or log on to www.amas.org.uk to find site locations throughout Manchester. And, if you’re not and haven’t entered into the spirit of it all, don’t worry, come Monday the grumpy suits (you probably are a grumpy suit) and their greasy McDonald’s will be back. Them and my beloved Office!!

Pam Wood

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