“Wheat…fields of wheat…” Musings on the path to the allotment



Okay, who knows which film this quote comes from? As an extra clue I give you the line in ‘full’: “Wheat… lots of wheat… fields of wheat… a tremendous amount of wheat…”

For some reason I cannot explain, this particular exhortation is rather popular in the Farrell household.  The Team Leader is wont to deliver it at unexpected  intervals and with some vigour. This habit even predates the time when we actually came to live beside  a field that often has wheat growing in it. So here is it. The field behind our house. And while I admit it might overstep the bounds of propriety to share my washing with the world, here is another view of the wheat field from our garden. I also think the flower shadows on the sheet rather fine: housework turned artwork?

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I have written in earlier posts how our house lies on the edge of Wenlock Edge, a twenty-mile scarp formed from the upthrust bed of a tropical sea – the Silurian Sea in fact. This geological formation is a breath-taking 400  million years old – a place once inhabited by trilobites, and molluscs, and sponges and corals, although it should be made clear that when these creatures lived, the shallow sea in question was not in the northern hemisphere.  No indeed. In its tropical heyday Shropshire lay off equatorial East Africa. We are thus, for all our rustic appearance, a well-travelled county. We also have lots of geology of international importance, but  which I cannot begin to describe because the terminology and chronological expanses confound even me, a prehistorian. The Shropshire Geological Society have  a good site HERE should you wish to know more.


The reason I’m showing you the wheat field is because my path to the allotment runs along the edge of it. I walk back and forth at least once a day. And so when I’m not writing blog posts or fiddling with my novel, this is one of the places where I’m likely to be. There is always something that catches my eye – thistles, the light, clouds, buzzards, the rooks and jackdaws, a neighbour’s three white ducks that regularly escape from their pen to eat slugs along the path, cats on the prowl, pretending I can’t see them.

Even the wheat is quite interesting. It amazes me how it manages to force its way up through a cloddy layer of grey clay that bakes to concrete after a few days with no rain. This soil, too, is a product of a geological event – a deluge of  volcanic ash from aeons ago and that has now broken down into bentonite clay.  It is the same soil in the allotment. Soft fruits seem to thrive on it. Everything else is a challenge. Wheat, though, has apparently been grown along the slopes above the town for generations, hence the name The Wheatlands for some of our now built-upon areas.



And talking of building, a couple of years ago when the Local Authority called for landowners to put forward development land, our local landowner proposed  this and most of the fields on the Edge side of the town, including the allotments too, gardens  that have been there since the 1940s.  Development on this scale is something that most town residents fervently  hope will not happen. We have already been threatened with up to 500 houses over the next 11 years. This in a town with antiquated drainage, severe traffic congestion, few jobs, poor public transport, and inflated house prices, and one that has seen several new developments of upmarket houses in the last few years.  More crucially, the town sits in a bowl below the Edge and has recently been designated a rapid response flood risk area by the Environment Agency.

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More tarmac, roofs and roads that speed up run off from the hills above our homes are the last thing we need.  Some of the newest developments in the town are themselves subject to flooding.



All right, I admit it. The landscape behind our house is perhaps not particularly noteworthy of itself, but the light and sky above it are. The uptilted scarp of Wenlock Edge forms a false horizon, so there is always much weather to watch. It changes every second. One day we saw a fire rainbow which we gather is quite rare.

Ironically, it it perhaps because this view from our house is ever under threat, that makes us look at it and appreciate it all the more. But it makes me angry too. I am not opposed to development, but it should be well planned, and enhance the locality, not cause problems for other people’s homes. There appears to be no mechanism in English planning that can ensure the provision of good quality housing at prices people can afford. Density seems to be the only planning criterion, not  homes with green spaces around them, and places for community orchards and gardens, footpaths and cycle tracks and areas where people of all ages can play. All things that boost wellbeing. You would wonder why it is so hard to do.

It is true that  Much Wenlock people have recently voted to have the Local Authority  accept their Neighbourhood Plan, a community compiled document that reflects our aspirations and plans for the foreseeable future. Our Conservative Party MP, Philip Dunne, tells us the Plan will deliver localism to our door, that is, we will have a say in the kind and scale of development that is proposed for our town and parish, development that will protect landscapes, open spaces and heritage while improving the quality of life for everyone. Whether it will, or not remains to be seen, particularly under a government whose recently sacked Secretary for the Environment apparently allowed for the destruction of ancient woodland as long as developers replanted elsewhere.  Bio-diversity anyone?

Which I suppose brings me back to the quote; “Wheat…fields of wheat…” You can’t get more of a monoculture than that. Hey ho. So many things to unpick. Think I’ll trundle up the path to the allotment and pick raspberries.

copyright 2014 Tish Farrell


…of Silurian Shores

Old Stones of Wenlock: repurposing the Silurian Sea

In Much Wenlock an Inspector Calls


P.S. The quote is from Woody Allen’s Love and Death


21 thoughts on ““Wheat…fields of wheat…” Musings on the path to the allotment

  1. Sad to say that, eventually,it’s all about the money.
    Nothing wrong with ‘only’ having a wheat field outside one’s back door. Looks smashing!

    When I was a nipper in 1792, my dad was in the RAF. One of the bases he was stationed at was RAF Wyton. http://www.raf.mod.uk/rafbramptonwyton/

    We lived in Married Quarters. Our street was a cul de sac and at the bottom was a corn field ( wheat?) This was one of the camp borders.
    The road was slightly downhill and this was where I first learned to ride a pushbike: you know how it is right? Kid on wobbly bike, out f breath parent holding onto seat yelling, “Pedal, son, pedal!”
    One almighty push and we are off and away! Thunderbirds are GO!
    The fence at the end of the road acted as temporary brakes! There were blackberry hedgerows and a pig farm somewhere beyond the fence. Memory is a tricky thing!

    I love the idea of an allotment. Such an English thing! My Grandad had one, even though most of his garden he’d turned over to veggies. And roses, of course.

    My Grandparents ( mum’s folks) also lived in a cul de sac. Stake Piece Road in Royston. On the chalk downs.
    Beyond was a heath. Miles and miles of rambling hills, horse trails and a vague recollection of a cricket pitch/ground.
    I like the look of your spot. Tres rural! The photo of the thistles is beautiful. Great capture.
    If the missus and I are ever in the area we’ll pop in for a cup of tea and take a wander down your allotment.
    I hope the wheat field is still there and remains for a long time.

    People always want to fill up these wonderful spaces with ‘developments’ ( it’s the same here by the way)
    Drives me doolally.

    1. You and Mrs Ark are welcome for a cuppa any time. And yes, money’s always at the bottom of things, and land prices in England so astronomical, and developers sitting on brownfield sites and cashing in on greenfield ones under the present regime because they’re cheaper to develop. And even better if there’s a prehistoric monument on the perimeter. No real planning for the future.

      We both come from a time when there was more freedom for kids to roam about. And more accessible spaces. My mother never knew where we were. Like you, we wandered miles from home base. When my sister was running a visitor and education centre a few years ago she was astonished to discover that even kids in rural Shropshire did not know how ‘to be’ out in the countryside. They did not know what to do when they got there; were bothered about what to wear. And yet they lived surrounded by wonderful landscape and footpaths all managed by the National Trust. Sad.

      1. Sad it is.
        Our ‘gang’ roamed all over without any fear whatsoever.

        We had a couple from Manchester stay with us ( here in SA) for a short while and their little lad, Adam, had never had a home-cooked meal ( lived on MacDonalds’ and Kentucky, so we were told), and thought beans came from a tin!
        I kid you not. Weird doesn’t describe the half of it.
        Little Adam was a gentle lad. He taught our old boxer Brunel, to sit.

        Here’s something to make you go wow!
        The first night we all sat down to dinner he was scared to tell me which Football team he supported in case he got into trouble! ( Apparently it was more a life threatening thing back home these days.)
        He was eight.

        Most odd.

  2. I have seen this same problem here. People build without care about services, open spaces and recreation areas. It saddens me.
    The houses are overpriced. I wonder who they build for.
    Great photos of your home and neighbourhood!

    1. Thanks, Noel. You make me wonder how much planning control there is in Nairobi. Or do developers take control of particular enclaves, and then do what they want within them? I mean who decides on all the services and security in the expensive gated communities? I remember reading that colonial planners in Zambia determined the distance between administrators’ houses on the basis of the point when they could no longer hear a neighbour’s gramophone player! The size of garden carved out of the elephant grass was of course related to rank. Dotty!

      1. There are zoning by-laws that should guide development in the city. In some areas these are followed especially where there are strong neighbourhood organizations. In most other places, money does the planning and we have ended up with highrise slums with no green areas.
        In most gated communities, the residents pay service charge that takes care of so many things security among them.

  3. Gorgeous pictures, Tish. I felt so relaxed as I read, just imagining myself walking on the property surround by such beauty. As I got further down your post — reading about the possibility of them building all those houses, an Eagles tune “The Last Resort” came to mind “you call some place paradise, you kiss it goodbye.”

    Just this week I read that one of the worlds rarest forests located in Florida is going to be destroyed to bring in a Walmart store and two corporate restaurants. Just pisses me off. If I were to identify what true demons are, I’d say they are corporations.

    1. I would totally agree with you. Worse than politicians, because their boards of shareholders and CEOs are largely invisible, yet they lobby, and manipulate situations all over the globe, do not pay their taxes, and generally cause havoc while few of us notice. Hmph. That was a little rant waiting to happen!

  4. Now that’s a wonderful path to the allotment! Whether it’s wheat or corn, there’s something so peaceful about passing through their fields.
    I sometimes wonder if greed has completely overtaken the planners and developers. Here, for example, we continue to build homes and golf courses, of all things, on desert lands. Where will they get their water tomorrow? in 10 years? In 20? Those that preceded us didn’t know any better. We do and are doing no better.

  5. So many issues here that repeat themselves in too many places all over the world. I’d think if the towns people gather together and demand input into the planning process raising the issues they know best, there could be a more thoughtful outcome.
    What is an “allotment?” Is it like a parcel of land that you pay rent on to do your gardening? In the US, we call it “community garden;” in Germany, it’s a “Schrebergarten.”
    Love the shot of the thistle, such a brilliant purple! Oh, and I don’t mind seeing your laundry (good thing it’s clean though) 🙂

    1. Yes, Annette, an allotment is a community garden. They began here I think at the end of the 19th century, when railway workers were given the right to demand a plot of land to grow produce. I think our allotments started that way, though the current gardens are more recent. And yes, you pay an annual rent, for a quarter, half or whole plot. Our rents are fairly modest. There’s a management committee, but it’s all rather laid back, and we only meet once a year to pay our rents.

      As to planning, in the UK we are bound by ludicrous laws. If developers are refused planning permission by a local authority, they can take the authority to a judicial review – thus causing the LA huge expense in legal fees which local taxpayers are paying for. LAs try to avoid judicial reviews at all costs, and that is how developers in this country get to ravage greenfield sites, and build beside ancient monuments, and generally build rubbish houses that appear upmarket, but are poorly designed and barely sustainable. Even bodies that you would imagine would protect landscape and heritage are pretty toothless. They can say their piece, but that’s all. Developers also sit on land creating Land Banks, and this causes other precious green field sites to be developed instead of the land they are sitting on. This all comes down to the fact that most of the undeveloped land in the UK is owned by a small minority of people. A very large population is thus squeezed into towns and cities, and space is lacking because land and house prices are thus inflated. This is what a free market economy, alongside an enduring class of landowning gentry does for us.

      So glad you didn’t mind my washing 🙂

  6. Nature is full of art works and small miracles! And it certainly looks very beautiful in your neighborhood, including the wheat. I hope you can have it that way also in the future.

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