The other evening I found myself up the far end of Highgate and happened on a large metal fence and gate saying Highgate Allotments. I was initially attracted by the lone pair of daffodils trying to cheer what was a fairly grey evening – but as I was snapping them a friendly lady with a large bunch of keys arrived to let herself in.
A hidden gem off North Hill (the B519), the allotment covers a really large diamond shaped plot surrounded by Highgate golf course to the west, the hospital and two schools. As a result, according to my friendly lady, it is wonderfully quiet – you really could be in the depths of the country.
What’s more, the allotments are, she reported, brilliantly run – and have their own resident artist!! They certainly have a most informative website with lots of great images of their products and activities – including a video on how to take cutting from a fig tree from one of the allotment-ees, if you can be such a thing! But, before you get too excited, there are over 200 people on the waiting list.
Anyhow, this put me in allotment mood so, yesterday, since the sun was shining, I went to visit our Fitzroy Park allotments. The last time I had looked – about a year ago – they also had rather a splendid website, so I am not sure what may have happened, but it no longer seems to exist. However, the allotments most certainly still do and looking as though they are well tended. A fine tilth, I would say this was.
As my Highgate lady pointed out, the Fitzroy Park allotments, desireable though they may be are much harder to work as they are on a steep hillside, they are quite ‘enclosed’ and they are not nearly as big. And she is right – they are quite enclosed, by the road on one side, by a bizarre little country lane of four houses which runs along the bottom – and by the North London Bowling Club.
As you can see, the club was founded in 1891 and, as another delightfully chatty lady I found refilling the bird feeders on the bank outside the gate told me, is a lovely friendly place. Another oasis of quiet in the heart of London.
The bowling club also has an excellent website where you can read all about its history from it its first days with one of farmer Tom Ward’s cowsheds as a pavilion. In 1924 the bowling club bought the freehold of the club’s grounds, which were tended by only by two greenkeepers, Mr Henderson and Mr Gunn, from 2001 to 1956! In 1966 women members were admitted for a trial period of three years (this was never actually extended so they are still officially ‘on trial’) and in 1997 they had their first woman president. They are not accepting new members at the moment but my friend, who is a member, assured me that the waiting list is nowhere near as long as for an allotment.
Finally, on my way home I stopped by the Bird Sanctuary Pond as I saw a cormorant who I thought might be heading towards our side. Sadly, he dived and disappeared from view but the contrast between the peace of the pond and the busy chatter of the afternoon’s walkers on the path behind me seemed worth recording for a few minutes.