Prize winners

Photo:Cathrine Jackson busy watering

Cathrine Jackson busy watering

Photo by Simon Tobitt

Photo:Cathrine's allotment

Cathrine's allotment

Photo by Simon Tobitt

Cathrine's Allotment

By Simon Tobitt

Cathrine Jackson was the joint winner of Brighton & Hove City Council's 'Best Organic Gardener' prize in 2005. Cathrine lives in Hangleton, having moved to this area in the mid-1960s. Cathrine has her allotment plot at the Foredown site in Hangleton, Hove.

Past, present and future
"I do believe allotments, when they first started off, it was somewhere for the poor people to have a bit of ground and to grow their own produce. In some parts of the country those allotments were used as leisure places. I've seen programmes on the television where people used to go and have a picnic in their 'garden'. I think possibly it would be nice if there was a trend towards that. You used to think of them [allotment holders] as retired people, older people, but because things are cheaper in supermarkets, and because there's more things for retired people to do, perhaps they won't want to spend as much time and hard work. They might prefer to go travelling or play with their computer all day. I think allotments will have to move on. You've got to change the idea, I think, of the old man in his cloth cap: digging up potatoes, planting his onions. Probably more to a leisure site, or a community site, or growing the exotics that you can't get in the shops."

An education
"I have three grandchildren. Three years ago, we started bringing them up to the allotment, and it surprised us greatly the look on their faces when we dug up potatoes. This was sort of an unbelievable thing: "this is where potatoes come from?" "why is this cabbage in the ground?". I was surprised also, their father came to pick them up from the allotment, and they said "just a minute Dad, we're digging up some potatoes" - and the look on my son-in-law's face because he had never seen a potato grown in the ground.

"Since having the allotment, there's no dashing off to the garden centre to get some cabbage plants - if you lose them that's it. You've got to learn more about rotation, fertilisation, pigeon control, fox control, badger control et cetera. It is a bit more technical than people realise."

Advice to the new seedlings
"[We've had the allotment] for five years. When we took the allotment over, the one person who had been here for a long time was about the same age as we were when we took over. The trend now seems to be for the younger people to come in, which I think is great. The only problem is a lot of the younger people have children and they just don't realise what they're taking on. Like myself, they want to grow organically; they want to not have the chemicals sprayed on things. It's very difficult being organic, because you've got to devise different methods to protect your crops, and still you might not win. I would of thought [it would make it easier] if they weren't so ambitious and had it more like a lawn area with a few smaller plots, maintain those smaller plots, then open them up as they get more experience and more time."

On thrifty ingenuity
"With allotments, the idea is that you don't go out and buy something brand new. You find ways of making it cheaper. When you see someone putting up a fruit cage - like one has on our allotments - you admire it, and you admire it even more because he's done it from things that were thrown off from a building site. You take great delight in [managing to do things] from such-and-such a thing that [you] found in a skip; making your compost bins with pallets. This is what an allotment's all about - perhaps it won't be in the future - the cleverness of finding new materials on the cheap or for nothing."

Natural (nuisance?) neighbours
"Allotments should be enjoyed not just for the food they produce, but for the wildlife. For instance, we have here to the delight of my grandchildren and myself: slow worms, lizards - I'd never seen a British lizard before I didn't know we have lizards; we do have bindweed - a very interesting bindweed, it's not the bindweed I have in my garden that grows six thousand feet before you can say Jack Robinson, it's a nice little pinkie one; grasshoppers; we also have a badger - which happens to like potatoes. He also likes sweetcorn, so you have to put up a nice barrier to stop him. We always say that it's the badger that's doing these things, but we did try to grow some outdoor melons last year, and, you can't mistake a fox [by its urine] and I think he was just digging around and generally being a complete pest. Oh, and the badger used to like carrots. We've devised methods over the five years, and I think I've now got a crop of carrots - first in four years - because we've devised a badger-proof carrot run."

Added to the site on 21-12-05 
This page was added on 22/03/2006.
Comments about this page
I have just read about Catherine's Allotment in Foredown, and she is quite correct: the hospital was called Foredown Isolation Hospital. I was sent there for a number of weeks when there was a polio epidemic in Brighton in the early 1950's. I was 3 years old. It seemed such a long way to go, and not to be able to even see my Mum and Dad for all that time was terrible. I remember when I was recovering, having a little bike, that I used to drive up and down the front driveway, rushing on to the grass when I saw an ambulance coming through the big gates. There must have been a lot of kids from Brighton at this time in Foredown Isolation Hospital. Fortunately I didn't have any long term effects from Polio. We emigrated to Australia 25 years ago, and I always look at Brighton and Hove Memories for my trip down memory lane. It's good to know that allotments are still being used, and not being taken up by greedy developers.
By Sandra foster (29/01/2006)

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