How far is too far for an allotment?
As my first week on the new plot draws to a close, the realisation that having a plot I can walk to really transforms what can be done - and when I can do it.
As I've mentioned previously, my original plot, taken on in 2015, was some distance away - driving to it was the only option - and could take anywhere between 20 and 30 minutes on average (though 45 minutes was not unusual from time to time, traffic depending). Whilst the site was pleasant and I would enjoy every minute of being there, I never really felt I could just 'nip there for 10 minutes' - it was always 'there for the day', or 'there for the morning'.
I would typically drop my daughter at school for 9am, walk home, then drive to the plot - I'd usually be on site between 9:45 and 10am. I'd then get perhaps 4 or 4 1/2 hours there before heading back in time to walk back to school and pick her up. So, a 'full day' on the plot was in reality just a half day in real terms - and between other commitments, it was rare that I'd get that amount of time. The majority of my plot visits meant I spent more time travelling that I did on the plot.
In all honesty, despite these challenges, 'giving up' was never an option - I'd sooner put up with these inconveniences than have no plot at all. Purely by chance and a bit of digging (pardon the pun!), I've now got a plot much closer to me - one I can walk to, as I've mentioned before. Whilst this first week has still involved a fair amount of driving as I move things from old plot to new, I've also had the chance to walk it a few times. The walk is just shy of 1 mile, and takes me between 15 and 18 minutes. Personally, I enjoy walking and try to do it as much as possible - I'd sooner walk than drive, if it's feasible to do so (and around here, it's usually far quicker too!).
Now that I have some temporary cold frames on the new plot, for the last 2 days I've been walking to the plot at 8am to open them, and returning later in the afternoon to close them. This is something that has never been remotely feasible before, and I'm excited about how it will transform what I can do on the plot, and when I can do it. As with many others, the odd weather this year has meant many sowings have either succumb to exceptional frost, or burnt to a crisp in the greenhouse long before they were ready to plant out. In my case, both scenarios were avoidable if I could have moved plants on a daily basis according to the weather forecast. Instead, 2 days in a hot baking greenhouse between visits was enough to kill off a good number of my young plants.
As I'm still in the process of moving things from old plot to new, I've been speaking to other plot holders on the 'old' site about the distance they travel. Of those I've spoken to, they all drive there - though some only a mile or two. I would accept that age is potentially a factor here - I wouldn't necessarily expect an 80-year-old to walk several miles a day (though I know many do, and I certainly hope I still can at that age!). However, the demographic on the old site is somewhat different to the new - old site privately owned, £390 per year, new site self-managed but council owned, £35 per year. Most plot holders on the old site are under 55, with the average being around 35 years old. Returning to the discussion about distances, there were some that simply 'preferred the site' and were prepared to travel for the privilege, and there were some that passed the site on the way to work and back - and in those instances such distance from home is of course perfectly viable.
Those that travel more than 5 miles and don't pass the site routinely however, remain there simply because they can't get anything closer - and most admit they would give up their plot to take on one closer. One or two, understandably, felt that after 3 years investment in their plots, they'd probably just stay there even if offered one closer - interestingly, those that gave that reply were all retirees, with more time to spare I would imagine.
Personally, even after just a week and very little in place on the new plot, it's already been an eye-opener at just how much of a difference it makes being able to walk to the plot.