Our Upwell Allotment – Prologue

I have not “blogged” for a very long time… aside from a bit of work-related writing, personal blogging pretty much faded out for me when I went down the route of running my own business. The last post on this personal site was December 2014 – 5 months before I started the wholesale business. – and that post was just a link to the old beer blog, where the last post was in January 2017 (as an off-shoot from work related thoughts)… Time? Spare time? Forgeddaboutit! However, I am going to try something… and see if I can make it stick… because I’m tired of nearly 100% of my waking hours being about the businesses I’m involved in…

Upwell Allotments – from the entrance off Stonehouse Road

So… on the 9th of July 2021 we met a bloke at the Upwell Allotments to view some available plots – having enquired about renting one a couple of months ago. There were none available at the time, so we asked to be put on the waiting list. Now there are three available – an interesting back-story being that the 2 ones beside each other belonged to one bloke (we are told he was known by some as “Mr Potato” owing to this being pretty much what his entire double-plot was devoted to) and the third single plot belonged to his wife. For whatever reasons all three were pretty much abandoned this season – age the culprit by the sound of it, life getting on, things like managing allotments getting difficult. To be honest, there is an air of sadness to that back-story. So we shall move swiftly on.

All three available are somewhat over-grown. Though not in a very established way thankfully, the double-plot seeming to have been tilled probably last season and just having this season’s fresh weeds growing. The double also has two trees on the central boundary – a well established walnut and an oak sapling. Whilst the single is completely empty aside from some low raised beds hiding under the overgrowth. Personally I’m quite attracted to the trees, as much as I am aware they will have an impact on light and water in their vicinity – and also I prefer the “blank slate” nature of the plots without the existing raised beds. So we have opted for the more southerly of the double plot – I’d have probably have gone for both – a big plot with the walnut in the middle – but the allotment manager pretty much led with the fact they wouldn’t let out doubles so that probably saves us biting off more than we can chew!

There’s little to add about the plot right away. It is weedy, the soil is soft, there seems to be the odd potato amongst the weeds, and I think there are some berry bushes up the back. Looking at it front-on there is a well maintained neighbour on the right with a fence between made of pallets. The front-right corner is where an existing gate is, so as the fence to the south casts a lot of shadow we’ll keep the gate location and run a path all the way down this side to the back I reckon. Then build a small storage shed at the back corner for keeping items dry – we are warned to not keep anything valuable on site (fair warning) – crime is minimal, but they have the occasional opportunistic miscreant checking sheds for tools worth thieving. We will probably put a set of compost heaps along the back edge … and other that that there’s plenty to plan and think about. Not to mention budget and scrounge. Building a garden can be expensive… thankfully due to the business I do have some “free” resources, like a constant stream of pallets… and cardboard… loads to work out.

For context I have some images – a zoom-in of the site, which is between Stonehouse Road and Upwell Cemetery off St Peters Road. I think it is accessible by foot through the cemetery, but this is to be confirmed. Let’s zoom in on the site:

The allotment site is highlighted in dark blue, and our plot in cyan with the yellow star.

This is 12.5cm per pixel imagery, and this third photo is zoomed to 12.5cm per 2px, so it goes a bit grainy. If you look carefully you can see the skeleton of the walnut in the middle of the NW edge between the plots. This satellite imagery is from 10th April 2020 and you can see the plots seem to have been recently dug over.

The two images below with the fancy “before and after” widget show Google Satellite imagery on the left versus the April 2020 imagery, the Google Imagery isn’t dated but I’ve deduced it is probably from around 2017. If you check the site on Google you can see it wasn’t in much use at that point. What you can see is that it was whilst the walnut tree was in leaf, as it’s a proper green blob in the middle there. And the sun was lower on the horizon so you can see shadows cast including from the fence on the SE neighbouring plot. I’ve marked the plot out with little cyan dots.

The other thing I’ve been thinking about already is: where is the sun! A fairly basic and fundamental element, and one I was already roughly working out in my head whilst on site picking a plot… the single plot 2-plots to the NW of the double was the clearest for sunlight, no trees, no fence… but the trees really won me over. It was clear that the walnut was going to create a lot more shade in the NW plot than the SE one so SE it was on that measure.

On the left we have the sun transit on the day of the winter solstice, and on the right the the sun transit on the day of the summer solstice. There’s not a great deal more to think about with respect to this – we can see that generally most of the plot is going to get good sunlight for most of the year. With only a little worry in winter with the fence shadowing the ground – so that’s where we will put the path. In summer the tree will only cast some shadow on our plot coming into the evenings between 4pm and sundown on the day of the summer solstice. And that’ll be mainly across the back corner where I plan to put compost bins and other utility area stuff. The sun maps were generated using this useful website: https://www.sunearthtools.com/dp/tools/pos_sun.php

Anyway, that’s it… I leave you with a pair of photos across the plot as we saw it on Friday. One from each front corner… Looking forward to getting stuck in, with some trepidation as to whether I’ll have the time and energy to keep it going.