Friday, September 11, 2015

Clearing an Ancient Midden

Wednesday, the City Council had returned the allotment skip. Hooray! I set about clearing rubbish. Lots of glass, big sheets of it, and barrow-fulls of it broken. Worst of all, two sheets about 7x3ft, each made of two layers of thick glass, stuck together with a plastic membrane. These buggers would have been big and awkward enough anyway, but they'd partly broken, with the broken glass half hanging on to the membrane, making them incredibly difficult to manoeuvre. I'd estimate they each weighed more than a hundredweight, and frankly they caused a bit of effort getting them onto the barrow, down a couple hundred yards to the skip, and then back off the barrow into the skip.

Old greenhouse doors and panels with the wood rotten. What looked as if it had once been a table in a nightclub. Tools rusted to hell-and-gone. Old bits of metal fencing. Glass, glass, and more bloody broken glass. I was dismayed to realise that under all of this there are more layers of rotten wood, bricks, and broken glass. Just when I thought I'd cleared it, I found I'd have to get at it some more with the fork and the hoe and a lot of swear words. This is an area about ten square yards, which my predecessors have given over to be a midden, probably decades ago. It's right by the allotment gate, and a bloody eyesore when you first come in, so it will all have to be excavated and returned to garden-able ground.

This midden area also adjoins the boundary with the next allotment, occupied by people I've called the Wood Chip Folk, because they've got a couple of raised in beds taking up a few square yards with all the rest, maybe 75% of their allotment, a sea of wood chip. Maybe they haven't worked out that the allotment is there for plants, but don't get me started. The midden has merged with the boundary, and between it and next door's (unused) greenhouse is rotten fencing, bits of wire, scattered paving slabs and triffid-like bracken and brambles. Technically, most of this is in the neighbours' purview, but as clearing it will involve quite a lot of actual work (beyond laying wood chip and dabbing at a raised bed with a B&Q trowel), I'm just going to do it myself. I need to clear this properly and make it garden-able because the hedgerow is going in there.

Anyway, just clearing the surface rubbish was bloody hard work. I got up yesterday morning with great difficulty, feeling as if I'd boxed 15 rounds with someone two weights above me. And also went on Twitter to find that late the previous night, somewhat tired and emotional after the heavy labour and a bottle of pinot grigio, I'd cast a lot of vulgar abuse at my predecessors and their midden practices. Delete, delete, delete. It's perhaps a constant in human life, that we must tidy up after the previous generation's thoughtlessness. Clearing the midden and planting things where it once was will put up a temporal boundary between me and the predecessors, just as clearing the boundary and planting a hedgerow will put one between me and the Wood Chip Folk.