A lot to lose


In the 15th of a series of articles by plot holders at Redbridge Lane West allotments – which are under threat from the adjacent gas works – Sally Parker recalls how she first discovered the site

One rather grey and miserable day in early March 2008, I was having a day away from the office working at home (working at home isn’t purely a phenomenon of lockdown!). At lunchtime I decided I needed to stretch my legs and get some fresh air. Normally, I would have gone in the direction of Wanstead Park, but this time, for some unknown reason, I turned left instead of right out of our gate and then headed on to Redbridge Lane West towards the A12, past Wanstead High School and the leisure centre.

Despite having lived in our house for 17 years at that point, I had rarely, if ever, walked in this direction. Imagine my astonishment when I came upon some allotments behind tall metal gates on the other side of the road from the leisure centre. I had no idea these even existed. As a keen gardener, this started me thinking, and in no time at all, I had checked out allotments in Redbridge.

The following weekend I persuaded my slightly reluctant husband, Ray, to come and have a look too. We were lucky that day as two plot holders saw us peering through the gates and invited us in for a look around. These two (Gemma and Sandy) had been working their plot for just over a year at the time and we were very impressed with their warm welcome and enthusiasm and the progress they had made in developing their own plot in a relatively short time. Their beautifully fitted-out shed and immaculate raised beds, all painted in a shade of horticultural green, made a special impact.

Gemma and Sandy pointed out some plots close to theirs that had recently become vacant, and as soon as we got home, I applied (I did agree it with Ray first!). By the end of April 2008 we had signed our agreement and obtained the keys for our very own plot, and we set to work immediately.

At that time, Ray and I were both still working full time, but later that year I took early retirement and so had more time to spend on our new plot, which was completely overgrown with very uneven and compacted stony soil. By the end of that summer, and after a lot of hard work, we had established two beds and were able to grow courgettes and runner beans. It was very rewarding to be able to pick and eat our own fresh produce. By then, we had also put up a shed which Sandy fitted out for us with items all reclaimed from local skips, including a laminated floor and work bench and lots of neat and inventive storage spaces. We felt very lucky.

Sadly, we will shortly be losing this plot and our much-loved shed when our neighbour Cadent, the global gas giant, takes over part of our allotment to carry out an upgrade of its adjacent site.

For more information on Cadent’s plans, visit wnstd.com/cadentplan