I've grown on various allotments since childhood. The seasonal processes of looking after the land, feeding it, digging and weeding it and growing food on it is part of who I am. And it's not just because I love growing and eating fresh, local, organic food, although obviously that us part of it.
Working the land grounds you. It soothes the soul and allows you to slow down, to feel the seasons in all their beauty and in all their extremes. Being in the plot on a really windy day listening to the trees creaking brings the realisation of how we are, and always will be, in natures hands. Feeling the soil, working it gently and caring for it in a way that you know will bring it into maximum fertility, slows you down and forces the ears and eyes to hear and see what your hands are feeling and your brain to process that in a way that makes you think about the seasons, about past experiences. The turning of the seasons, the seasonal produce and the repetition of all these things whilst looking after and caring for that land is a powerful thing and one that as the seasons and the years pass, we realise we only know a tiny amount about.
Sitting on the plot on a perfect summers day, listening to birdsong, watching the clouds as they pass, sowing seeds, potting plants on all with the heat of the sun on the back feels like a gentle caress. Talking to allotment neighbours, swapping plants and produce brings community to life. But even winter digging when the robin appears with every turned doc, looking for worms, makes you feel like someone or something powerful is pushing you on, willing you to succeed.
Working the land soothes the soul. We know that there is a compound in soil that raises seratonin levels, meaning that anyone suffering from low mood genuinely will be helped by working the land. Horticultural therapy works, and mixed with the sense of community on a site raises the spirits. Good food, good company and a natural antidepressant has saved people from despair.
And yet, as Monday approaches all of this is put into jeopardy. Trees that are wonderful for nesting birds and wildlife are bring felled as the horrors of a bus route that will cut 3 minutes off a journey, as long as traffic is clear, comes to life.