Waitrose & Partners Weekend Issue 612

11 AUGUST 202 2 45 Photography: Darren Lakin CAROLINE HEARST ‘Allotments provide a sense of purpose’ “I’m the founder of AutAngel, an organisation in Reading run by and for autistic people. We run an allotment group, which offers a real sense of community. Many autistic people änd looking others in the eye stressful, so growing together is a great activity, allowing us to build relationships without awkwardness. We all enjoy feeling part of a productive community. Even jobs like äxing the shed roof provide a sense of purposefulness!” autangel.org.uk DR ROBIN SALMON ‘At 91, the allotment brings me so much joy’ “My retirement village, Audley Chalfont Dene in Buckinghamshire, boasts 16 allotments – many tended by widows and widowers like me. We always have a good natter, which was immensely helpful during lockdown. At 91, I’m not as mobile as I was, but I still nip down on my tricycle a couple of times a week. This month, I’ll enter some courgettes into the annual show. I’m not the most accomplished gardener, but the allotment brings me so much joy.” RACHEL GREENHILL ‘My happiest moments are at the allotment’ “I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety since I can remember, but took a turn for the worse after my brother passed away in 2012. Since then, I’ve been up and down, but my happiest, calmest moments are when I’m at the allotment, where I’ve built a memorial åower bed for my brother, älled with yellow and orange blooms. Growing a garden nurtures my soul and for every failure, there’s a success. It’s my favourite thing – I live for getting my hands dirty.” allowed Annabel, eight, and Dexter, three, to learn fromolder generations. “They love harvesting flowers and vegetables, but most of the time, they’re busy chatting away to the other plot owners,” Ingrid laughs. Allotment holders are known to have a strong sense of community. “Gardeners tend to be a friendly bunch and there’s usually more chatting done than work,” says Jennifer Howarth, fromWirral. She, her husband Dan and their daughter Elsie got theirs just before the first lockdown. Now, Dan is chairman of the allotment association committee and hopes to revive community activities such as barbecues and vegetable shows. Of course, on any allotment, the real prize is the produce. “Freshly harvested sweetcorn is one of the joys in life,” says Jennifer. “And the sheer variety of tomatoes is incredible.” Vimbai agrees: “Homegrown potatoes are in a league of their own. And freshly picked peas are a delight. Lea and I struggle to get any home, as we eat themall on site!” “Running an allotment reaps rewards,” says Rob. “Even if you’re shattered after a long day, harvesting potatoes and lettuces feels good – and they’ll make the tastiest meal you’ll ever eat.” green army (clockwise from left) Shannon Keary’s plot; Susan Hodkin with daughter Dot; Rob Smith; Rachel Greenhill; Ingrid Chiu National Allotments Week (until 14 August) celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and the theme is Bugs, Bees and Broccoli. Take the Bug Survey, to änd out which creepy crawlies call your plot home, at nsalg.org.uk