Frank, Ashbourne Road District Allotments

Frank

I am 90 years old and have had my plot at Ashbourne Road District Allotments for more than 60 years.

The allotment is very important to me because it keeps my mind and body active. Sitting at home watching television is not for me, I would much rather be outdoors.

I also love fishing and recently won a big regional match. When the Angling Times found out a 90 year old beat all the younger anglers they wrote a feature article on me.

I love to be outdoors enjoying the fresh air, and with the sun shining there is nothing more beautiful. I grew up on a small farm in Poland, and when Germany invaded Poland in WW2 I was 14 years old, and they sent me to Germany where I also worked on a farm.

I had to wear a badge with the letter ‘P’ for Polish but I had a fantastic few years working on the farm. Then in 1944 I escaped the Nazi persecution of foreigners and fled to France, and from there I sailed in a fishing boat to Italy where I joined the Polish Army in Exile. After WW2 I couldn’t return to Poland because it was occupied by Russia so I came to England in 1947 and worked with army bases all over the country and later worked as a labourer.

In Derby during the 1950s, I used to look after Mill Dam- a local fishing waters that backs onto my plot and runs along one side of Ashbourne Road District Allotments. One day I could see an elderly man struggling on his plot so I started chatting with him and started to regularly help him with heavy work like digging. Soon after, he asked me to share his plot with him, and when he passed away I took on his plot too.

People kindly offer to help me but I usually refuse because I like to do everything myself. For many years, I built roads all over the Midlands and I laid big concrete sewage pipes so I’m used to hard work. When I saw that the grass bank between Mill Dam and my plot had started to slide onto my plot, I built it back up myself.

To prevent invasive weeds, I recently dug out a deep narrow trench dividing my plot from my neighbour’s plot then I laid a line of vertical concrete slaps in the trench and backfilled it. Now the weeds can’t get past the concrete. I’ve found that a mulch of spent hops and grain from breweries stops weeds growing around my plants.

I grow what I like to eat and I love red potatoes, beetroot, cabbage, and onions. I store potatoes in my garage and in early summer I can still be eating last year’s crop.

Frank’s favourite plot to plate: Red potato mash, bacon, tomatoes, and a side of spring onions sprinkled with salt & vinegar.