Since October some of the Vaux core have taken on an allotment at the Longton Grove Nursery site. The rent on the plot is £20 a year; it seemed rude not to. Our neighbour, Mick, and another local friend Mary have neighbouring plots. Underneath them run the Sydenham Wells: a natural spring bubbles up in one corner of Mary’s plot. Foxes run about, and birds and bees and mice live in the rambling hedges. The soil is excellent; loads of worms.
The entrance is like some local authority secret garden: all wire fence and piled leaves around rusting posts. It’s not so much hidden, as just not drawing any attention to itself. But a beautiful tranquil place lies just beyond; the lock-up garages that lead up are soon forgotten.
Our plot is pretty big. Around 7m by 8m. We’ve just bought a shed for £20 off someone who was giving up their plot. And we’ve got a cold frame to protect stuff from the frost. We’ve put in fruit bushes and potatoes. Carrots, broccoli, onions, leeks, squash and a few other things are potted in the greenhouse. We’ll plant them out when it finally gets properly warmer. The old guys who’ve dug there for years don’t even come out until then.
One of the things I love about being down there is the ‘waste nothing’ attitude. We are gleaners. Old windows, knocked together into a makeshift greenhouse. Old oil drums to collect rain water. The Vaux speaker flight-case, now a tool store. It makes it a messy, dirty, untidy sort of place. Things don’t look neat or new or well designed. It’s pure function. And that has its own beauty.
So… The Compost Christ. It’s a fine pun. And close to the truth. In the turning of the soil, the dirt under the fingernails, the short walk from the house, clumping in our wellies, the slow growth and tiny seeds, the quiet, the planes overhead and foxes and birdsong, the gifts exchanged and the wisdom being learned, the fruit and vegetables being grown in the midst of the city… It’s beating church on all fronts for us so far. Feel free to join us for a dig any time. Or pop over in the summer to eat the spoils.