Our involvement with the allotment began two years ago when Dad took it on. He has an allotment in the next village, Marley Hill, but lives in Whickham. So it is easier for him to get to Sunniside. His plan was to get the allotment in Sunniside up and running and then give up Marley Hill. But he was ill shortly after taking on Sunniside and began to think of giving up the new allotment and sticking with his old one.
Then we stepped in to take on Sunniside. To cut a long story short, Dad fully recovered but kept on Marley Hill and Sunniside is now ours. Since the allotment was completely derelict (we think it hasn't been used for about 10 years at least), we found ourselves with a big job on our hands getting it back into use. 2007 saw our using one very small patch.
In reality, we were not attempting to get any crops. we had taken on the allotment too late for that. But in the autumn, after I had picked all the wild blackberries (and most of the allotment was covered by a thick bed of brambles) we began the process of getting the land back into use.
We spent a couple of months clearing the undergrowth from just over half the allotment. They are the areas which we have been cultivating or are about to cultivate. We have graducally encroached on the remaining derelict part and this is now about one third of the allotment.
If we are to become self-sufficient, we cannot allow that dereliction to continue and the land needs to be cleared and restored. This will be one of the big jobs for this year. The brambles and weeds will need to be cut back and the large amounts of rubbish dumped either by the previous occupier or other people using it as a free dump will need to be removed. There's lots of it and it will involve a number of trips to the official waste site.
The hedge bordering the derelict area will also have to be cut back. At the moment it is doing a very good impersonation of the hedge in sleeping beauty. I actually made a start on Sunday. Once the site is cleared, we'll need to dig out what brambles and weeds we can and then get another load of manure. What fun that will be! The photos below give an indication of what we are up against.