Since turning 50 I have become a gardening enthusiast. It started with tomatoes, then spread to raspberries and last year extended to French beans. I’ve now run out of space and was hoping to get an allotment in 2016. They’re like gold dust in west London, but one of the perks of living on my street is that the residents’ association has access to the Goldsmith’s Close Allotments, a two-acre plot abutting the backs of our houses. I put my name down when I first moved in and was optimistic one might become available this year.
Imagine my dismay, then, when the chair of the residents’ association told me the allotments had been sold to someone called David Parry — a local property developer — and the users had been given their marching orders. Initially, they were told to be gone in June, but the local rep pointed out this was in the middle of the growing season and got a stay of execution until October. Now they’ve been evicted and the new owner has put a padlock and chain on the only entrance, at the rear of a nearby housing estate.
When I first heard about this, I was aghast. Don’t allotment-holders have any rights? ‘Not if the land is privately owned,’ explains Michael Wale, the secretary of the Acton Gardening Association, which oversees all the allotments in these parts. ‘You only have rights if the land is owned by the council. Having said that, there was one middle-class allotment-holder who could have put up more of a fight, but the middle classes never do, do they? The only people that fight are the upper class and the working class.’
In fact, one of my middle-class neighbours is fighting back. He owns a small strip of land behind his house that he bought for his children to grow vegetables on and it connects the main road to the allotments.