It was disappointing to discover that the allotment plot  Exeter Communities Together had earmarked for the Growing Project was infested with an invasive species – stagshorn sumach. When it became apparent that professional help won’t come, we took things into our own hands by getting a working party together and attacking the problem ourselves.

A major clearance operation took place on Saturday 21st September 2019, at Plot 80 Prince Charles Road Allotments. It was a bright, clear and windy day, where we had arranged to meet at the top gate at 10.00am. In a bizarre twist, nobody who volunteered turned up, but many others did – having seen posters put up in various places or heard about us. Altogether, we had 13 helpers over the course of the day and 2 visitors.  The visitors should not be discounted: Ellen, our PCSO has supported allotment holders before and is great at spreading the word. The other visitor was the churchwarden from next door, who came to tell us off for not including them in our request for help. Both he and Ellen have said we must do this again in two weeks’ time and let them know about it. They are certain they can bring a lot more helpers.

Take a look at our ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures below and you will see what a difference our working party made. The bottom half of the plot is almost ready to start building raised beds and putting up the poly tunnel for the Growing Project.

The oldest helpers were a retired couple and the youngest was around 10-11 years old. Flasks of hot water ensured we had hot drinks throughout the day and there were good biscuits to go with them. A good, hot soup – tomatoes, carrots, leeks and lentils, with cheese rolls – made for a hearty lunch. It is amazing how much fun we had and how quickly the work got done with everyone pitching in. Talking of pitching in, Andy Hannan brought his pickaxe in the afternoon and dug up all the stagshorn sumach that we could see, roots and all – a real hero.

So, we are looking at Saturday 5th October 2019 for the next stage of clearance. Let us know if you would like to join in – details here. It is really enjoyable and gratifying to see the plot being transformed before our eyes, from an impossible jungle, to what we can turn into a family-friendly community plot.