To And From The Allotment ~ The Monochrome Seasons

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When I set off across the field to my allotment garden I often do have a camera tucked in my pants’ pocket. And yes I know very well this is no way to treat a camera. But then the inclination to take photos overtakes the scruples. There is so much to see and consider, both around the allotment plots and along the field path from our house – the different times of day (or night); the changing seasons; the shifts of light; the state of the land; what is growing; what is not.

This month Jude at Travel Words is featuring black and white photography in her 2020 Photo Challenge. And as I’m presently in monochrome mode and most days still going gardening, I thought I’d post a somewhat themed response to this week’s assignment, ‘a retrospective’ using archive shots.

This is what Jude says about the assignment:

‘Look for shadows and textures. Carefully choose your images so that you can angle the light to create a sense of depth with the shadows’.

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Much Wenlock’s Southfield Road allotment plots back on to this field. It’s an adjunct to Townsend Meadow, the field behind our house. I’m guessing this photo was taken in October, though only because the ground looks newly ploughed, but not yet harrowed and re-sown, which is the farmer’s usual habit. I certainly don’t remember him missing a chance to put in some over-wintering crop, wheat or oilseed rape or field beans. On the other hand the ash trees are very bare and the hedgerows very spiky for early autumn. The light, too, and the dead grasses along the barbed wire fence also suggest winter. Even the glint of turned earth says ‘cold’.

Here’s that distant same spiky hedge, but a late afternoon view taken from the Townsend Meadow side:

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This is the field path running up beside the allotment hedge, also a wintery view from a couple of years ago. Much of this grassy margin has been ploughed up now and is presently sprouting winter wheat. The next photo is the path closer to our house, in early summer with the Queen Ann’s Lace going full throttle.

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English allotments tend towards the shambolic – lots of recycled greenhouses, makeshift sheds, cold frames, and windswept polytunnels. They can look very bleak in the winter months, or in the case of the next shot, disturbingly other worldly. It was taken at dusk when the greenhouses seemed to be capturing the last of the light in a distinctly sci-fi manner. The eerily lit straggle of dead tomato plants caught my eye.

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This was the shed I inherited from several previous owners when I acquired my first allotment plot. That was back in 2007. (Goodness how time flies when you’re digging and composting.) Heaven knows how old it was, but never mind. Before I moved to another plot some years later, it served me well despite its tendency to lean to the east and harbour roosting snails.

There had of course been moments when he who builds new sheds from scratch and lives in my house was called in for emergency resuscitation measures i.e. when the leaning reached critical declivity and demanded a hauling back to as near vertical as was humanly possible; a manoeuvre that took our combined effort. One day I found a 1725 halfpenny just in front of the door. Astonishingly it was barely covered by soil, and in a spot I had walked over hundreds of times. I wondered who had dropped it there long ago. Had the old path from the Sytche across Townsend Meadow (now only visible on antique maps) passed under my shed? And who had dropped it and later sorely missed it? A lass on an errand to fetch a jug of ale? A ploughman dropping it from his pocket while reaching for his tobacco?

The shed was also picturesquely sheltered by a very old greengage tree, the light through its foliage making the sunspots you can see on the door. It was more of a copse of several trunks than a single tree. Fruit production was sporadic, but once it a while it produced the most delicious plums ever invented if only you could get to eat them before the wasps did.

These days the shed is no more. For several years it lay abandoned. Then last winter the new plot holder demolished it, along with most of the tree. By then the shed truly was on its last legs, but the same can’t be said of the tree. Now only one spindly trunk remains after fellow allotmenteers objected and stopped the final act of culling. I still think of the tree that was. The creamy spring blossom was spectacularly lovely, the scent so delicate.

But enough reminiscing. We have the tree’s offspring over the hedge at home. I dug up a seedling tree a few years ago and planted it there. It’s already four metres tall and grew four greengages this year, none of which we sampled as they were difficult to reach, though  we were very happy to see them.

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A home-from-the-allotment shot: the ash tree at the top of Townsend Meadow caught with the sun about to slip off the edge of Wenlock Edge.

copyright 2020 Tish Farrell

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2020 Photo Challenge

47 thoughts on “To And From The Allotment ~ The Monochrome Seasons

    1. Yes, b & w does have a nostalgic feel. Maybe because it holds the moment somehow in a way colour doesn’t. Or we’re looking in a different way: that the lack of colour sets the image apart from our usual visual experience. Interesting domain: perception, and how we see.

  1. Neoither my dad or either of my Grandads had an allotment as far as I can recall, but my Grandad Varney (Mum’s father) did grow a fair amount of veg in his garden.
    He also had two sheds.
    I have a couple of photos of my garandparent’s house, including the garden, in one of my old albums. I must dig it out and post them. (scuse the pun!)

    Lovely photos, Miss T. Very atmospheric.

    1. Glad you like the pix, Ark. I think I’m right in saying English allotments were originally garden plots set aside for railway workers in the Victorian period. The original Wenlock allotment was beside the old GWR line. It got moved up the hill a bit when a row of council houses was built on the site of the 19th century plots. There’s also still some by law or other too that parishioners can ask their council to provide land for allotments. Interesting territory allotments. But yes, do ‘dig up’ some photos from the family archive. Always good to know how things were before madness descended on us.

      1. It seems like aeons ago. Talk about a Rip Van Winkle scenario. Now our PM is consulting with a software salesman with no medical training as to how to stop future world pandemics. I wonder what Sir Terry would have made of this.

      2. Does seem an age ago.

        Ramaphosa, or Uncle Cyril as I like to call him, gave a 15 minute Speech to the Nation two days ago. Covid etc.

        Celeste and I were going to listen to a delayed recording when my son chirps: ”Don’t bother … just get the crib notes from News 24.”

        Pratchett would probably have concluded this was ” …… an embuggerance!”

        Politicians! 90% plus are a complete waste of oxygen,

  2. What a wonderful nostalgic post. Lovely examples of how B&W photography can enhance a view. And woven together through your narrative. The wonder of discovering that halfpenny; the sadness of the destruction of the greengage tree. Those beautiful Shropshire trees. (my tree is a Shropshire one too)

  3. Beautiful shots Tish and as always with great information. Most photos get ‘date stamped’ by the camera, not sure how you store yours on your computer but with mine if you hover the cursor over the file the info appears, would answer the question of the field photo which looks ‘bleak mid-winter’ or a typical Norfolk day!

    1. Interesting about the date stamp. Usually I find it works fine. I was posting these as copies in a separate file from the original file, and when I tried to check as you suggest, with cursor over the file, the info did not pop up as expected. I could not then remember which source file the photo came from. I’ve not checked to see if this usually happens for photos copied from a source file into another file. A bit annoying.

  4. You chose perfect candidates for monochrome, with lots of lines and details. I think the trio of buildings look more than a bit scary which is also fun. Just watch out for guys with chainsaws! 🙂 Wonderful series.

    janet

  5. I envy your ability to come and go in and outside. I seem to be permanently stuck inside and now that my town is on the critical danger list for COVID and the weather has turned cold, I don’t see me going much of anywhere unless it’s a doctor. I hate seeing trees cut down unless they are already dead. My mother was an ardent tree saver too. Every baby oak got transplanted to its own special spot … but she couldn’t stop the developers from cutting down the old white oaks.

    1. So sorry you’re being confined to base, Marilyn. That image of your mother saving trees is magical. Makes me think it would be a good story for a children’s picture book. The loss of the old white oaks though is saddening. Certainly none of us living in the UK now will know of the magnificent size our oak trees would grow to. The last of the biggest and the tallest were probably felled in the 19th century. I’ve seen photos, tree giants felled for their bark for tannin.

  6. Fascinating photos and narrative, Tish. That halfpenny must have had quite substantial worth in the 18th century. Your last few photos look quite surreal in B&W. My dad grew a greengage tree and mom used to make jam from the fruit. Your post brought back this memory for me.

      1. very dismal although brightened up by a Zoom catch up with Cee, Debbie, Sue and Margaret. You’d be very welcome to join us one Saturday xx

  7. That ash tree looks like a tree from myth. (That’s what happens when you’re five pages in to “The white goddess. Heaven help me when I’m halfway through!!) And maybe the coin you hadn’t spotted was only recently dropped by a ghostly visitor from the past (although I like your speculations better.) A lovely descriptive post. May you remain healthy.

    1. Hello Meg. Thank you so much for popping in. I’m rather fond of mythic trees (especially the great world tree at the heart of the planet). I also quite like parallel universes/time slips etc which of course make me wish I could get a better mental grip on quantum physics; or even a little finger hold. I read somewhere that the old shamanic view of existence apparently has much in common the quantum physicist’s apprehension of matter.

      And thank you too, for your good wishes of wellness, which are heartily reciprocated. We are certainly eating well! I remain infuriated on many matters.

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