Saturday, March 05, 2016

Looking back for the last time

When I got home from Saudi in June and started work on the allotment, I didn't take any photos for a couple of months. The reason was, I just wanted to get my sleeves rolled up and get to work, and not stand around taking photos, like the Golgafrinchan's useless middle class in the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, making documentaries about themselves. By the time I did start taking photos, around end of July, I'd already begun to tame it.

But here it is from google earth, much as it was in June. From the shadows, it was taken at midday. The trees are in leaf, but a lot of the ground is bare and ready for cultivation, so I'm guessing this was taken in April, maybe 2014. The photo is conventionally orientated, with North at the top. Let me walk you round my garden, before I get properly into the growing season 2016, so that I can remember what it was like in those wild pioneer days of the summer of '15.

1.  This was a collapsed wooden fence, sagging over into the plot for the last ten feet or so of the W boundary. In fact that whole fence up to (9) was very rickety. Now replaced by my impossible-to-climb-over wire construction, and awaiting a hedge.

2.  A bank of earth approx 4ft high, topped off with tall nettles to a total height of 9ft or thereabouts. Fronted to the South by a weed-filled ditch. The nettles (stinging nettles and thistles) were so dense that they hid from view a burning cage sitting on top of the bank, with (I was horrified to find) an egg-filled dunnock's nest in it; (I know it was a dunnock because one of the parents kept hanging around. The eggs were stone cold, so it must already have stopped sitting them, perhaps as I got close to it in the previous days).

3.  Corresponding bank of earth and nettles on NE bed. Not quite as tall, and no ditches. The path stopped between (2) and (3) about 5ft short of the fence. There was a dustbin at the end of the fence and it's still there, right next to the fence now, as the comfrey-tea container.

4.  This is the long fruit bush bed, blending in seamlessly with (3) and then running down 2/3 of the plot to the midden at (5). It was a jungle. The fruit bushes had reached the stage where "feral" becomes "wild". And where there wasn't fruit bush, there were nettles - stinging nettles only, no thistles. I was delighted to find, as I thought, that they didn't have deep roots, (ha, ha, ha!) and wore my old Aramco shirt (flame-resistant = nettle-sting-resistant, I found) to pluck them out by gloved hand. The fruit bushes were beginning to take over the whole NE side, and that's what was happening at (4a), they were spilling out of their own substantial bed, and growing only 3ft or so from the central path.

5.  The cherry trees. A lot of soul searching it took for me to coppice established trees, but what else could I do? As a food resource they were useless, the cherries were 20ft up in the air. And coppicing means they will grow back as part of the hedge, and I can take care of them as they grow to make sure we get some cherries.

6.  The midden. OMG. A dozen or more glass doors, window frames shower doors, a lavatory cistern... I could go on. It was a horror. First thing anyone saw when they entered the plot, too. Now, I'm almost down to the final layer of bricks. Don't get me started.

7.  More nettles. About 5ft high occupying the whole SW corner, about 25yds sq, so dense they completely concealed 2 builder's wheelbarrows. The fence along the S end was crazy, too. Layer upon layer of fencing of all sorts, extending several ft from the actual boundary, which is a pallet fence, and was then covered in 2 green tarpaulins. Well, 1 green tarpaulin, one of them had half fallen off, underneath I found another birds' nest, thankfully unoccupied, big-ish, maybe a blackbird, and a bucket with a rhubarb plant in it. It's difficult to imagine how dark and strange that corner was, now.

8. The old greenhouse foundations. See the way they seem to have all kinds of ramparts extending North and South, as if they were some kind of iron age fort? Bloody hell. Still a lot of work to be done there, even now.

9. This was then the lowest point in the plot. From the greenhouse area, there was a step down of 3ft or so into a ditch, which ran from here along the boundary to the earth bank at (2). A bank was thrown up from the ditch along the boundary. You couldn't see it back then, but someone had layed a carpet, a runner from stairs or hallway, along the side of the bank, maybe to keep the weeds down. That hadn't worked for long because weeds grew right through it, and it was kind of knitted into the fabric of the bank.

So that's how it was. It has changed more than somewhat, and there's still a long way to go.