Prize winners

Barry's Allotment

By Simon Tobitt

Barry Sharp was the 2005 winner of Brighton & Hove City Council's 'Best New Allotment Holder' and 'Allotment Coronation Bowl'. Barry runs a building company, and lives with his wife and children in Moulsecoomb. He has lived in Brighton all his life. Barry's allotment plot is on the Moulsecoomb Estate site.

An elevated performance
"Building the raised beds, having a little bit of savvy, and being a builder I know how to build things out of timber, which is very, very easy for me. And also I've got the tools to do it which does help. I think because of the hard work to start with, [that's] the reason people don't want to do it. One of the reasons I did start off the raised beds was because this year it's going to save me a lot of hard work. When the winter time comes all I've got to do is just to dig them over and get them prepared for next year. Each one of those beds is going to take me ten minutes literally to clear it out and just dig it over. I will probably cover them with some black matting or something just to stop the weeds over the winter time. Now some of the people around me, they're all taking note, and the idea of the raised beds is cottoning on. My next door neighbour, he's put in the raised beds. The one after him, he's putting in raised beds. Roy, the person who looks after the allotments, he actually timed me; I didn't know he was timing me. It literally took about a minute and a half to dig it over and get it prepared ready for something else to go in there. And he couldn't believe it, and he said: "Right, that's it Barry, I'm putting in some raised beds". I get a lot more satisfaction out of how I've done it now. I'm looking forward to next year."

Aiming for perfection
"I do like straight lines. I am very particular on how my produce is grown and how it looks. I specifically make sure everything is in a straight line. Like, the wife tried to help me one time. I plotted the line out, and I literally had to go behind her to put things right [laughs] 'cause they were slightly out of line. And she said: "Right, that's it, I'm not coming back anymore you can do it". It's just me; I'm a little bit particular; I like things to be perfect."

Pride and practicalities
"Roy said to me a couple of weeks ago, there's a lot of people come down and have a look at your allotment [after winning the prize], walking past and looking at it, and I get great pride in that. It's something I've achieved. Last year I had the longest cucumbers up there, and this year I've got the fattest cucumbers. I made a bit of mistake this year though, I left them a little bit too long, and they start going to seed so you can't actually eat' em. So, you learn by your mistakes. I don't grow things in my allotment that I don't eat. My wife, she'll say to me "Next year Barry, can you grow more curly kale" - we love curly kale - or cauliflowers, or "grow more potatoes next year". I've already dug up all my potatoes this year, I've been thinking about taking on another half of an allotment just for potatoes."

A manure misunderstanding
"One thing I did do last year, I overdone it a little bit with the horse manure. I phoned up somebody from the Friday Ad: horse manure for collection, a trailer load would cost me forty quid. I said to him "how much do you get in a trailer?" He said "About a ton, something like that, I've never really weighed it". I said "Right OK, well I'll have two trailer loads", because I didn't know how big a ton of manure is. I had to go up on this particular day to let this tractor in with this trailer. And when I saw this trailer it was the size of a bus - you can imagine. And it was like "I just ordered two of these!" I said to the guy: "Can I just have the one not two". He delivered this tractor load and it was absolutely huge. Everyone was coming down saying: 'How high do you want your garden to be Barry?'."

A bit of solitude...
"One of the reasons I've got the allotment is for me to relax. I find it's an escape, it gets me away from the family [laughs], and it gets me away from work. When I'm up there I just clock off and the time goes so quick. I'm up as soon as it gets light, and I'm over there before anybody else, and it is so peaceful, it's really nice you know. I just get stuck in and before I know it I've got the wife on the phone saying "are you gonna come home for dinner, or what?". She does put up with a hell of a lot from me. All the time I'm up there I'm not thinking about anyone, anything, I'm just concentrating on what I'm doing, what I'm growing and getting a lot of pleasure out of seeing seedlings grow to what they do."

Like father like son
"When you're a kid you don't want to help out digging gardens and planting vegetables, although I found it fascinating watching my Dad plant vegetables and seeing them grow and everything. He made sure everything was all nice and tidy and made sure all the weeds were pulled out. That's something he made me do when I was younger - pull the weeds out for him. It's like my son, I get him over there occasionally to give me hand, but he just sits in the car and watches. I don't have a go, because I know that feeling when I was a kid. The pleasure I used to get was just watching the plant's grow, 'cause I didn't wanna do the work. And me Dad, like me now, he was a bit particular, in how the garden was looked after, so I think I've got a lot of my Dad in me."

A blooming future
"I notice a lot of people grow flowers, and I love flowers, but the only thing is you can't eat 'em [laughs]. So sometimes I think it's a waste of time, but this year I've decided to put a bit of colour in to my allotment. I've taken my wife up there a couple of times and she's said: "Why is it so green?". It's nice to put some flowers in, and I can see why other people have done that."

Added to the site on 21-12-05
This page was added on 22/03/2006.
Comments about this page
Hi Barry! I loved reading how you felt about life down the allotment. I have just started a project with a group of young people excluded from school and have two plots. Unfortunately there's a massive drainage problem, so it looks like we'll have to rely on the raised bed idea! Have you any advice to give a novice? I'd love to hear from you.
By Angie Dowling (07/04/2006)
Loved reading about your allotment, I can't wait to start on ours. We've just got our first one! don't quite know where to start!
By Kelly (07/05/2006)

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