A lot to lose

IMG_2392Sandy and Gemma working on their allotment in 2011

In the ninth of a series of articles by those connected to Redbridge Lane West allotments – which are under threat from the adjacent gas works – we hear from former plot holder Gemma Sanderson

In November 2011, Wanstead Village Directory published an article sharing the enjoyment that my husband, Sandy, and I got from our little patch in Wanstead.

We obtained the allotment in 2007 when it was just a weedy patch of grass with poor-quality soil. It seemed a little overwhelming at the start, but Sandy gradually sectioned areas off into raised beds, where we could focus on improving the soil, and covered the paths with membrane and stones to keep down the weeds. We sifted the soil thoroughly in each of the beds to get rid of debris, grass and bramble roots. We also went and collected manure regularly from the local stables to combine with the soil. It was amazing to see what a difference this made to the quality and texture of the soil over the months and years.

Sandy and I loved the whole production process of growing our own fruit and vegetables, as well as the social aspect that came with the friendly site on Redbridge Lane West. There were a few well-established plot holders – who had been present when the Queen visited in 2002 – who gave us great advice in the early stages. Over the years, we went from being enthusiastic newbies to being sought out for advice ourselves. It also had a positive impact on my husband in terms of health and helped him get past the struggle he had with having to give up his career.

Sadly, in early 2012, Sandy became quite ill and was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. He deteriorated rapidly and I lost him in June that year. I really struggled for some time but found the greatest peace at the allotment, where we had enjoyed so much time together. We planted a crab apple tree on the site, in Sandy’s memory, alongside one for a fellow plot holder who we had lost the previous year. The allotment community was a huge part of what got me through that difficult time.

All the initial efforts put into the structure and layout made the ongoing work more manageable, and I was able to keep the allotment going for another four years, with help from fellow plot holders Sally and Ray. After this time, the wooden raised beds and structures were starting to deteriorate, and along with a need to downsize my property, I made the very difficult decision to give up my plot. But I still keep in contact with the many friends I made at the allotments.

A small amount of Sandy’s ashes were placed under a rose I planted for him at the allotments. Sadly, this rose is in the very area where I understand Cadent want to place a car park as part of their gas site upgrades. I will be sad to see all our hard work and memories demolished. I’m not sure Cadent realise how much time, effort and love has gone into each allotment plot over the many years.

To view Gemma and Sandy’s article from 2011, visit wnstd.com/sanderson
To view the petition to save the Redbridge Lane West allotments, visit wnstd.com/sta