Author Archives: fclapperton

Bonfire Celebrations

At this time of the year our allotment society allows bonfires for a limited time. It is a time to clear up debris on the plot and generate valuable potash. Also it is a lot of fun! We on the Southend on Transition plot make the most of it by having a cook out as well. It is becoming a bit of a tradition.


It was a beautiful balmy autumm morning when we arrived on the plot. It was already smoky from a number of other bonfires. Work started on chopping wood and bulding up the fire, a carefully chosen spot away from our new fruit trees. I had noticed that some other people had built up their bonfire a few weeks before. This can be dangerous to hedgehogs and other small creatures. Please check your woodpile and bonfire pile before lighting it.

Friends and new friends arrived, lots of happy children and adults.

As the coals burnt down a bit the feast was set cooking. Alicja did a marvelous job feeding lots of hungry tums. There was chat, music and a bit of work. Our magnificent pumkins and squashes were harvested.

And there was cake and of course marshmallows to toast and a yummy contribution, chocolate stuffed bannanas to cook on the fire.

The flames were built higher and I felt the additional warmth of friendship and community spirit. The afternoon shadows grew longer but we were in no hurry to leave.

And then it was the moment Nella had been waiting for … firefighter practice. As the she wielded the hosepipe professionally she was engulfed in smoke and shouted triumphantly ” I am the best firefighter” …thats girl power!


Another fine day on the plot.





Back to the land

The last few weeks have been a personal celebration for me, the joy of being out on the land after a long 4 months recuperating from an operation. I was a spectator through the window as summer passed. Now I am back! It was a joy to see the plot again, to see the changes that the hard work of my fellow allotmenteers have made. There has been a few work parties of volunteers who have made a huge difference.

This day Janet set to weeding the raised beds, Susan thinned out the strawberry runners. Duncan and Kamil worked on setting up the huge water butt ( there is a technical term for it that escapes me)  This will hugely increase our rainwater harvesting capacity and we can run hose pipes from it.


I got stuck in potting up the abundance of strawberry plants. This variety are very prolific, I can recommend them!

And the harvest

SIT wine perhaps?

Looking forward to the next plot day… this Saturday 13th October.

Part Two … Apple Day

Apple day bag

This is my favourite community event of the year and a real celebration of all things apple. It is organised by Trust Links, a local mental health charity.

They have wonderful theraputic gardening projects and manage St Laurence Orchard which is an ancient orchard in Eastwood. Southend in Transition usually have a stall there to raise some funds.

appleday ron

Our stall had crafts, homemade “free from ” baking, homemade preserves, books and handmade items. We also bought along some strawberry plants and of course there was apple bobbing.


The cakes sold out quickly and the bag and wooden apple painting were very popular. The best thing about the day is seeing people enjoying this wonderful ancient orchard and catching up with friends. And the rain held off until packing up time. The next event there will be Wassailing in January.


Soggy Saturday

A bit of rain never stopped us!

I moved to the UK from sunny South Africa 14 years ago and the fascination with the weather is one of those British traits I have embraced. I think this is especially true of gardeners. I have to confess I am a fair weather gardener so I did have joy in my heart arriving on the plot on a lovely sunny crisp February morning.

We did the usual patrol around the plot to see how things are progressing, the willow walk planted a few weeks ago has settled in nicely


There is always a long list of tasks needing to be done but today our original, much loved, shed spoke to me. It has been looking sad and unloved for some time but today was the day something had to be done. Sarah and I set to, scraping off the old paint. As we did so it was clear that the wood at the front had started to rot in places and there was quite bad subsidence. An urgent confab was held and Duncan and Sarah came up with a plan to brace up the shed and make portico roof for the front so the rain can run off.


Did someone mention rain??

Kath carried on weeding with great British spirit

We had a bumper crop of new visitors to the plot despite the soggy weather. We welcome anyone to come and look, have a chat and a cuppa, get involved, whatever they want to do. One family, who live nearby, were considering whether to graduate from a balcony to an allotment, another family had heard about our child friendly family plot. Newbie J ended up helping Duncan with his shed- bracing construction.

While Duncan went to collect lunch ( and Kamil) Sarah and I seized control of the power tools and put up the portico, with satisfying results.

Once the wood has dried out we can treat the damp bits, prime and repaint it. I am working on a new design for a mural.

We plan to plant another vine by the trellis to take advantage of the water run off and to clamber over the shed. The side of the shed is south facing so perfect for beans or small squashes but watering has always been a problem, this way we have created a solution.

Today we couldnt imagine those dry summer days ahead. It was raining harder than ever! We all beat a hasty retreat to the large shed for lunch. Delicious veggie stew and soup to warm the cockles.

Our next plot day is tomorrow Sunday 18th Feb. We have bought it forward a week as next Saturday 24th Feb we shall be at  Seed Potato day at Trust Links Growing Together, Westcliff. 10 am to 2pm. South East Essex Organic Gardeners will be selling a large range of seed potatoes and onion sets. We will have a stall with seed swapping and more. There will be fantastic Indian food and tea and cakes. Music and lots else.







The Good Rot… and other stuff

Sunday’s allotment day was all about the amazing raised beds that are being built on the new family plot. They are intended to act as a fence to keep to children in and also be easy for them to reach so they can enjoy the experience of growing stuff.
We have got new battery pack tools from a grant and donated scaffold boards .We are very grateful to Inez and Alex and friends for their hard work. It is only thanks to all those who volunteer time and energy that we can achieveas much as we have.
SIT Inez
A keen crowd assembled to get stuck in, the usual tasks ..weeding and more weeding awaited.
The tomatoes are growing well and need further staking. The various pumpkins and squashes have loved the recent rain. I was excited to see some gem squash appearing ( a South African favourite). Our grape vine is going to give us a bumper harvest this year.
Sit grapevine
The raised beds project is going to use the idea of Hugelculture. Thanks to Tree Fella for your donations This involves layering large pieces of wood, logs etc, then smaller branches and twigs, then greenwaste..leaves, weeds and grass cuttings . Add some other organic waste… we are using spent mushroom compost from The Urban Farmers and coffee grounds from various establishments around town. And then top it of with a layerof topsoil compost mix.
First Duncan lined the beds with plastic and old builders bags to protect the sides and improve water retension. Then the bottom was covered with cardboard to suppress weeds, this will eventually rot down.


Mark and his family are new plot visitors and we soon had them hard at work, here they are filling up with the first wood layer


Then the other layers go on and its all watered down very well….


Can you see the Good Rot getting started??



All ready for planting. We are planning a sensory herb, vegtable and flower garden in this section.


We had a number of new visitors to the site… Linda and Lizzie from community group “piertalk” came along to discuss ways our two groups might help each other. Norman and Sylvie, local residents to chat about the community gardens in their sheltered scheme and to exchange ideas about composting and Mark and his family to talk about professional chefs and restaurants getting linked up with local gardeners and growers.

With all that hard word we still make time for lunch and a chat and laugh under the shade of our new gazebo.


And all to soon the rain clouds rolled in and it was time to leave the plot to the plants and the bugs and the worms and the good rot.



Its bean a marvelous day..

SIT 28.05 5

Another glorious sunny Sunday on the plot. A slightly depleted band but still busy as the bees. Just as well as there was lots to do. We try to be broadminded about weeds but they are certainly growing with enthusiasm! Luckily we were joined by 2 new volunteers, Nicola and Molly who did a fine job clearing the edges.

The broad beans are also growing apace, I am an advocate of Autumn sowing, they get a head start and only a tiny bit of black fly to be seen. No mollycoddling of plants on this plot! Give them good soil, lots of mulch and they grow strongly.

SIT 28.05 4.jpg

What a harvest! Perfect for a broad bean and mint dip at the up coming Southend Food Cultures day . 

SIT 28.05 6

Helen popped by on her way to Southend Soup at the Shoeburyness Hub. She gave the rhubard and chard a bit of a chop, they have been going to seed in the hot weather and this encourages new growth.

We are delighted to see how well the grape vine is growing, looking forward to some homemade wine this year.

SIT 28.05 2

SIT 28.05 3


And then it was off home to pod that massive basket of beans for the freezer. Thinking about that homemade wine!


Seed Swapping

After a long winter of more cerebral activity its time to get the wellies on and get out there. In the Southend area the traditional start to this is Potato day. This is held by the dedicated folks of South East Essex Organic Gardeners  (SEEORG) at Trust Links, Growing Together, Westcliff. This year we were invited to host a Seed Swap stall.


Seed swapping gives people the opportunity to share a valuable commodity. Anyone with a bit of interest in gardening seems to end up with a LOT of seeds. They may have seeds left over from packets, most of us dont have room to grow the plants from an entire packet, maybe they tried to grow something that didnt work for them. Some of us have started saving seeds. It all encourages diversity, sustainabilty and less reliance on commercial seed growers.

The somewhat disapointing weather didnt put off the keen potato buyers and once they had stocked up on seed potatoes and onion and garlic sets they came over to browse our wide range. Danielle Neadley had a beautifully arranged selection….( well she is a professional! )



whereas our side was a bit of a pick ‘n mix ! Plus delicious parsnip and ginger cake baked by Duncan.


We had a number of people who took away a few seed of this and that in a twist of newspaper. A good way to try out something new.


I took some time out to do some shopping, so much nicer than a supermarket. Seed potatoes of course, Desiree, a reliable maincrop, and an interesting looking purple variety. Trust Links shop had fresh oyster mushrooms from local growers Urban Farmers and Shoeburyness Honey from the lovely Essex Bees.

Ian from WoodView Gardens had a temping selection of products at his stall.


Must avoid more seeds(!)…. did buy some funky purple striped pure wool garden twine, and a bag of volcanic dust from Remin, Scotland. Ian stocks the most amazing compost products made by Dalefoot composts …from sheeps wool.

Shopping over, it was time for delicious curry made by the local Asian community and a chat with new friends and old. Enjoying a spot of music while waiting for the raffle.

All in all a good day out. Come join us next time. Look out for the Trust Links Mayfayre and come along and join us at our Taster days on the allotment. Look forward to seeing you.

Sunday Session 24/04/16

The usual suspects turned up to brave the weather again ( predicted snow!) fortunately only a bit of rain and hail, interspersed with enough sunshine to keep us motivated.

I have my usual tour of the plot, checking on what’s new, everything is looking green and healthy. The seeds we planted in the greenhouse are mostly romping away but the “permanent” marker turned out not to be, so its going to a guessing game for some plants, all part of the fun.

On the agenda today is to start on the  potting/tool  extension to our shed, rather a tricky project as the allotment society have put new rules in place about buildings. We do aim to keep to the rules. Kamil and Duncan have been collecting old doors and have a plan…


Jodie got stuck in planting potatoes that had already sprouted, everything is keen on this plot.IMAG0032

I got with potting on the gem squash and beetroot choggia, yum, my 2 favorite veg! Here is a preview to whet your appetite

We had some surprise visitors for tea and advice. Nicola and Marie from ” Growing for the Future” community allotment. They are a new project based at Eastern Ave allotment site and need lots of help and donations of stuff, tools etc. You can read more about them at . they were presenting at our friend Southend Soup.

A delicious lunch to keep our strength up, thank you Alicja for the split pea soup, just what was needed!

Then Alicja and Nella helped to replant the strawberries in the new fruit bed. Looking forward to a good harvest.

A final pause to admire our handiwork and homeward bound. Join us next time!