Sarah, Derwent Park Allotments

Sarah, Derwent Park Allotments

I come from an Irish background and both sides of my family had a vegetable garden or a farm. I wanted an allotment because I just liked the idea of eating what I’d grown.

I’ve had my plot at Derwent Park Allotments for over four years. When I went to see it, my plot was very overgrown but I just loved its position. It’s tucked away at the end of the site and is surrounded with tall hedges and trees on all sides. You enter through its own gate and go through a short tunnel-like path covered with climbing plants. It feels like entering a secret garden.

I work as an interior designer and have two young children. It wasn’t the right time to take on an allotment because I’d just had a baby but I fell in love with my secret garden.

I think there must be something in-built that urges you grow your own. I like digging and I like touching the soil and getting it under my fingernails. Even though digging is hard work you just get your head down and you just focus. I really enjoy the solitude. It’s so quiet and relaxing, and so cut off from everyday modern life of cars, phones, computers and television. It’s just great.

Access at the site isn’t easy when you’ve got a baby. The paths aren’t flat or wide enough for pushchairs which meant we had to carry our baby across the site to our plot. We quickly turned a shady area into a little playground for the children which kept them busy and safe. During the summers they’d happily spend their time picking and eating fruit or searching for frogs and dead birds.

As we cleared the overgrowth we were thrilled to uncover a raspberry bed and several raised beds. One day I was talking about my allotment with some neighbours and I discovered it had been their plot during the 1950s. They told me they’d planted a blackcurrant bush and told me exactly where to look. I found it under some brambles, and it’s still producing blackcurrants. I love the fact that my plot has a historical connection to other people who used it before me.

We decided to grow a wide variety of soft fruits which are easy to maintain especially if you use a sheet of membrane ground cover to stop weeds growing around the plants. My husband Mike likes to use the fruits to make flavoured gins and vodka for Christmas using damsons, raspberries, sloes and blackberries. I’m vegetarian and I love to grow and eat butternut squash, courgettes, beans, sweetcorn, and lots of different herbs. Next year I’m planning to grow asparagus.

Sarah’s favourite plot to plate: Frittata made with roasted butternut squash, feta cheese, tomatoes, peppers and spring onions. Served with a mixed salad.