David Housego's annual letter to plotholders
A good start
I’d like to begin by welcoming the new plot holders who have joined us since last September and hope they are enjoying their plots. Following the very wet winter we had it’s good to see so many existing and new tenants have been able to cultivate their plots this spring and bring them quickly back into productive use. There seems to have been a bumper crop of strawberries so far this year and it looks as though the broad beans are avoiding the worst of the blackfly. Potatoes also seem to be doing very well.
Thefts and Security
We had one break-in again before Christmas. Although a number of tools and implements were taken from the hut behind the PAGS Trading Hut, the thieves only took small items which they were easily able to carry away. We reported the incident to the police but, as we expected, they have been unable to recover any of the stolen items. The police Safer Neighbourhood team do however patrol the site and it’s thanks to them and our own vigilance that there haven’t been more incidents of theft. Unfortunately Ealing Council won’t allow us to increase the height of the fence along our southern boundary nor will they permit us to introduce CCTV to deter thieves.
We are intending to apply for a grant to the City Bridge Trust to help us with reconstructing the site access road, but we won’t be able to start anything on the road until next year. At the same time we’d like to improve the site drainage by connecting up the existing drain outfall on the eastern side of the site under the footpath which runs along our northern site boundary and out to the River Brent. Last winter we had particularly bad flooding in some areas because of the exceptionally wet winter – the wettest for 250 years! At one stage we were considering a working party to clear our existing ditches, but this wouldn’t have helped much as the site and park became so waterlogged. This meant a late start on cultivating many plots but the site has dried out well now.
Events and Activities
We have had two successful events so far this year – the ‘Tool Sharpening Sunday’ on April 20, thanks to Doig Simmonds and ‘Seedy Sunday’ on 11 May, thanks to Chantelle Ludski. We also revived the site produce show last September, which proved very successful. Charles Vaughan Jones was the overall winner. Chantelle, our events organiser, is planning the produce show again this year together with a late summer barbecue, please see below.. We’ve also decided to have a stall at North Ealing School fete next year and more details of that will be posted early in 2015.
Thank you bees, thank you Anne and anyone for Secretary?
We are encouraging more bees onto the site with Anne Bishop, Sue Matthews and others keeping beehives. This helps to pollinate the fruit and vegetable crops on the site. I would like to thank Anne Bishop, our Acting Secretary, for all the work she does on behalf of PACA and to make a plea for fresh people to come onto the Committee. It would be very good if we can find someone to replace Anne as Secretary as she has been trying to give up the position for a number of years now.
We also want to create a new website for the Association and Stefan Jasinski has kindly offered to help us set this up. John Kane has for a number of years run our existing website, but is no longer on our Management Committee and wants to give up that role.
Special thanks to Robert Reynolds and all the volunteers who have helped him run the Trading Hut this year. Please read Robert's report below . If we don’t use the Hut then Robert won’t be able to keep it going.
Getting in Touch
Just a general point about getting in touch with the Committee members; we are often around on the site, and you can speak to any one of us then. If you have a specific point about your plot or need to respond to a letter from us please write to us c/o the Secretary at 193 Argyle Road or email email@example.com. This will ensure it is passed on to the right person on the Committee to deal with. The telephone number on our headed letters is for emergency use only.
This brings me onto The Annual General Meeting, which this year will be held on Wednesday 24 September at the Brentham Club. It is your chance to have your say about the way that the Association is run. But do please remember that the Committee are volunteers giving up their time to run the Association. You can offer resolutions for changes to be made in the site management. These have to be notified to us and supported by another association member. You may also feel that you or another plot holder should be on the Committee. As I’ve already said we are looking for a new Secretary so don’t be shy about putting yourself forward if you think you can help us. Your nominations should be sent in and need to be supported by one other association member as well as yourself. If recommending a person other than yourself please make sure they agree to stand! Resolutions and nominations should be with us by Tuesday 16 September. We look forward to seeing you all at the AGM and have a productive summer on your plots.
David Housego – Chairman
Use up some of those over abundant courgettes by making this easy and refreshing salad as suggested by Anne Bishop
1lb courgettes, rinsed, dried, and trimmed at both ends
1 teaspoon salt
Creamy Lemon-Chive Dressing (100ml single cream + 2tbsp lemon juice + as many chopped chives as you like), Seasoning as required
Using julienne peeler or very sharp knife, slice the courgettes into long, thin strips. Transfer them to a colander set over a mixing bowl. Toss them with the salt. Let stand 15 minutes at room temperature.
Gently squeeze the courgettes to extract excess water. Transfer to a bowl and toss with just enough dressing to coat them evenly. Season and serve.
Editor: " As soon as Anne sent me this recipe, I tried it out and it's absolutely delicious and took very little time . I had always thought raw courgettes would not be very palatable. Wrong!!"
Interview with a Bee-keeper
TO BEE OR NOT TO BEE?
Anne Bishop, Acting Secretary and Beekeeper, answers our questions.
When and why did you decide to get a plot?
I’ve had a plot for almost 25 years. I first took one on as I love gardening and being outside and I wanted to start growing vegetables but my garden at home is full of perennials and shrubs, so I didn’t have much space.
What background did you have in gardening?
Only what I had been doing in my not very big garden.
What's your career background?
Medical research mainly, with some diagnostic work and teaching thrown in. I started in endocrine and gastrointestinal pathology and slowly migrated to stem cells and regenerative medicine.
Is there any connection between the two?
Only in as much as that gardening has helped to keep me sane sometimes.
What have been the main challenges and achievements in your allotmenting career?
Balancing the care of my plot with bringing up children and the demands of a full time job was the main challenge. The main achievement was that everything seems to have turned out OK, thankfully.
Any humorous incidents?
The funniest sight I ever saw on the allotments was Cyril (used to manage the PAGS hut) whom I came across one day in the Summer busily digging his plot dressed only in a open, flapping shirt, a flat cap and a pair of underpants.
Why did you decide to keep bees?
I became semi-retired in 2009 by taking Emeritus status and I have been enjoying myself since then doing all the things I didn’t have time to do when I worked full time. Beekeeping has long been something I wanted to take up. I find the ordered way bees behave together in a colony and the amazing skills they have completely fascinating.
Why are they important to you?
They are important to me primarily in the same way that they are important to every living thing on earth - no more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more human beings.
Why did you join the committee and what has your role on it meant to you?
I joined because I had seen how the work done by previous and current members of the Committee had transformed the site, about 50% of which was a treacherous mix of brambles and rubbish when I got my first plot. I thought that, as I have enjoyed the benefits of their hard work, I should also make a contribution. Many plotholders share a real feeling of community and are willing to help each other and it’s very pleasant to be part of the Committee that constantly tries to foster this ethos and to keep the site running smoothly.
Positives and negatives?
Seeing the improvements made to the site has been very satisfactory. It’s always a pleasure to see a neglected plot turn into a well managed, productive garden by a new plotholder. A major negative is the lack of support given to the Committee by some plotholders. Several plotholders don’t seem to be aware that Committee members give their time voluntarily for no direct benefit to themselves and, at times, I have been treated as an adversary when we should all feel part of the same community, doing our best jointly to maintain the site. It is also disappointing that so few people are willing to join the Committee. I resigned as Secretary three years ago but no-one has stepped forward to take my place. Plotholders should realise that, if the Association fails, the site will revert to Council management leading, for example, to increased rents and a far stricter system for ensuring that plots are maintained.
If you are interested in beekeeping,
the following sites may be useful:
If you can give a little of your time to help keep
PACA going, please email:
The PACA Annual Flower & Produce Show will take place at the PAGS Hut on Sunday, 7th September
. The Show will be followed by a picnic at the Allotments.
Full details and entry forms will be available in the Trading Hut from Saturday 12th of July 2014
Please bring your entries to the Trading Hut on the day of the show between 8am and 10.30 am. Judging will then take place between 11am and 12.30pm during which time the Hut will be closed. Between 1pm and 3pm the Hut will be open again for viewing. The picnic will start at 1pm in the area outside the hut. Please bring food to share and a folding chair or two if you have them. PACA will provide drinks ( first two free, thereafter a small charge.) Why not bring a national dish from your home country to share?
Entries may be submitted by allotment holders with fully paid up membership, and the categories will cover flowers and produce grown/produced on the PACA allotments only. This year, we will also have categories for pickles, preserves, chutneys and jams made from PACA allotments produce, and will be looking for the smartest looking plot and shed. So, if you want to win the Tallest Sunflower class, start feeding your plants (no nobbling of your neighbour’s plants, please!) and get your shed and plot spruced up!
Chantelle Ludski Lee, Events Coordinator
Robert Reynolds reports:
Since reopening in February, we've completely restocked with all your allotment needs, from slug pellets to essential tools, from fertilisers to as comprehensive a selection of seeds as you could want. Pay us a visit every weekend morning from 9.30am to 12.30pm to benefit from competitive prices, plenty of valuable advice and minimal transportation hassle. Don't forget we are totally non-profit-making and rely solely on volunteer time and effort.
Want to make a suggestion?
Use our grey box outside the hut to post us your ideas.
Use us or lose us.
New Plotholder Interview
Paul and his family have had their plot for nearly two years: “We wanted the chance to be outside and grow our own stuff”, he explains. When they got the plot, it was covered in huge leeks that had gone to seed ... “stunning looking but quite inedible”, he smiles. Paul does not claim to have been an experienced gardener but, no doubt, like any teacher, fully appreciates the value of planning ahead to get the most out of the plot. Just as many classes do not go to plan, neither do plants always perform as expected. “The key is to enjoy the plot and the outside exercise for their own sake, then horticultural disappointments can shrugged off”.
Paul Sandelson, a teacher at Brentside High School, shares his allotmenting experiences
When asked about particular successes, Paul mentions his gluts of beetroots and courgettes. His constant supply of food to the resident pigeons, rats, squirrels and slugs is a rather less satisfactory aspect of plot life. Something that has particularly irked Paul is the way thefts of crops and equipment have eroded trust between plotholders.
We were intrigued to know what connections Paul saw between his gardening enthusiasm and his role at school. “It has given me the confidence to start something at school which is now gathering momentum. I hope the many pupils to whom gardening is unknown territory will discover a new enthusiasm.”
Let’s hope to see some ex Brentsiders joining our gardening community before too long.
Interview with Paul Sandelson conducted by Chantelle Ludski Lee
PACA Dogs Trial
Malcolm Paice writes about last year's trial allowing dogs on site during the winter months.
At last year’s AGM it was agreed, by a narrow majority, to allow dogs on leads to be brought on to the site during November through February. The subject of dogs on the site has always caused heated debate as not all canines are as garden friendly as Monty Don’s well-behaved retriever, Nigel, who regularly appears in the Longmeadow garden in ‘Gardeners’ World’.
For me, experiment went very well. I brought my cocker spaniel on to the site on less than a dozen occasions. All the visits were brief and usually on committee business, to check the condition, location or circumstances of soon-to-be vacated or abandoned plots or, on a couple of occasions, to pull a few of my pathetically thin leeks (any growing tips appreciated!)
I know that being accompanied by my dog did not cause anyone any distress because on all of our mid-morning visits we did not come across a single soul, apart from greeting Tishy on just one chilly occasion. I did realize however that having the dog on a tight lead was very necessary owing to the multitude of rodents and squirrels that inhabit our site and whom she would have seen off, given half a chance.
No Second Journey
As far as I am aware there were no complaints made to the committee about any dogs misbehaving on the site last winter. The dog dispensation certainly helped me and other committee members to carry out tasks on behalf of allotment tenants while on our dog walks in Pitshanger Park without having to make a second journey to the park. I therefore hope that dogs will be allowed on site in the quiet winter months in future years.
Malcolm Paice, PACA Lettings Manager