October 2021

Allotments have never been more popular, and many Bridport residents see their benefits first hand every day.

As part of its parish plan, Bothenhampton and Walditch Parish Council is considering acquiring a site in Bothenhampton, which currently has no allotments. The council’s two sites in Walditch are both fully subscribed, and it wants to assess demand from local people for a new site. The allotments would be available to all Bridport residents, not just those who live in Bothenhampton.

To whet your appetite for growing your own, Bridport Mayor Ian Bark has written about the joys and challenges of looking after his own allotment over the years…

For as long as I can remember – and that is a long time now – I have been growing fruit and vegetables.

My earliest recollection is around the age of four, helping my father to plant potatoes on the large plot we had on the farm where I grew up. Even as a student in Norwich I shared a cottage with some fellow students and we were growing our own and even had some chickens. Throughout all those years my home vegetable patch and allotment have been a source of pleasure, frustration, excitement and disappointment, and a haven away from the hurly burly of the wider world.

I am fortunate to have an allotment in Walditch next to the cemetery. I say fortunate because when I moved to Bridport I was stunned to find that my name was at the bottom of a long list of people waiting for a plot. That was because I live in Bothenhampton and the chance of ever getting one was almost zero. So for several years I travelled to Burton Bradstock, where I was able to indulge my passion in what must be one of the most idyllic allotment sites in the country. It is difficult to top listening to skylarks, the buzz of insects and the rumbling of the stones on Hive Beach while drawing water from the river on a balmy summer evening.

When the opportunity to take on a plot within walking distance of my home came up, I jumped at the chance. My latest plot is once again the place where I am at probably most at peace with the world. For the first time I have a small polytunnel and a fruit cage, which have allowed me to successfully grow an even more diverse and exotic range of crops. Apart from a wider variety of tomatoes, cucumbers and chillis, I am really pleased with the gherkins, aubergines, basil and melons I have been growing for the past couple of years.

Growing your own is not without its challenges, however. Every year is different, weather patterns are changing and we have to learn to adapt to them. This year I made the mistake of planting some seeds too early, fooled by a warm spell in early spring, only to have them fail to germinate in the cold spell that followed. Learning what grows well on a particular plot takes time and a degree of trial and error. Variations in soil type and local climate conditions – and by local I mean the difference between Burton Bradstock and Walditch – can make a significant difference between success and failure. Even the most experienced of plot holders have their failures so don’t be put off if you are not able to achieve the perfection of Monty Don’s plot on Gardeners’ World.

For me the pleasure of growing, eating and sharing your own produce is one aspect of working a plot that makes it so satisfying. Enjoying it with my granddaughters, who more often than not consume more than they pick, and whiling away time chatting with fellow plot-holders make it a lovely social place to spend time.

Ian Bark

Bothenhampton and Walditch Parish Council is compiling a list of interested people and looking for a suitable site in Bothenhampton. If you are interested in keeping an allotment, please contact the council at clerk@bothenhampton walditchparishcouncil.com