Paul, Bramfield Avenue Allotments

Paul, Bramfield Avenue Allotments

I’ve always enjoyed gardening. For my 40th birthday present my wife bought me a wheelbarrow. That was about 20 years ago when I first got my plot at Bramfield Avenue Allotments.

A neighbour had put me in touch with a committee member at the allotment site and I didn’t have to wait long before I was offered a vacant plot. Some years later, the plot next to mine became vacant and I took that too.

I wanted to grow my own because I’m a vegetarian and over the years I became increasingly concerned about the poor quality of vegetables and the use of pesticides. My aim is to grow enough to be self-sufficient which should be achievable now that I’m retired and have more time to spend at my allotment.

I get a lot of enjoyment from my allotment. I get fresh air and a free tan. I’ve always been very interested in wildlife and love watching nature. There’s a lot of birds at the allotment. I’ll often be working away to the sound of a chiffchaff singing in a nearby tree, and I’ll see sparrow-hawks and buzzards. I also like the fact that there’s always plenty of other plot-holders around if you fancy a chat.

When I first started my allotment I grew the usual crops but by the time I got my second plot I became much more experimental. I started growing the more expensive to buy crops like hazelnuts, more unusual vegetables like asparagus peas and pea beans, and vegetables that I’d never eaten before like fennel and jerusalem artichokes. I turned one area into a little orchard with apple, pear, plum and hazelnut trees.

Over recent years I’ve been making my own beer and apple cider. I grow a traditional English variety of hops called Fuggles which I use to brew beer. I also forage sloes to make sloe gin. Instead of throwing away the gin-soaked sloes after decanting the gin, I use them to make a delicious apple and sole gin jelly. It’s perfect with cheese or for adding a touch of flavour to sauces and stews.

I’ve bought a food dehydrator which is the best thing I have ever bought. It’s brilliant. I use it to dry all kinds of fruit, vegetables and the hazelnuts. I eat them as snacks, put some on my cereal, and when I’m camping the dried onions and vegetables come in very handy for improvising a meal using cupboard ingredients.

Paul’s favourite plot to plate: Baked carrot, cheese & hazelnut oat cake, roasted jerusalem artichokes & mange tout. Served with a spoonful of sloe gin & apple jelly.