Thursday, 29 March 2012

Is It Allotment Architecture or Art-itecture?

I once lived in a posh Cheshire village where every building seemed to have a preservation order.  You weren't allowed UPVC windows or satellite dishes and everybody had to have the same kind of chimney pots.  The council architects and planners ensured everything stayed the same.  I think their favourite rock group must of been Status Quo!

One thing I love about allotments is the unique architecture of the fences, gates and shed buildings.  Everything seems to be a personal autograph or footprint of the allotment tenant.  Some allotments looks immaculate and like the outdoor set of a gardening television programme.  Whilst other allotments resemble shanty towns, The Hobbits house, Stig of the Dumps or even a scrap yard.

The allotment holder seems to have a 'make do and mend' approach to their buildings.  There is no need to go to a garden centre for a brand new cedar wood shed.  Oh no.  Just have a walk and pick up a discarded supermarket trolley (onion dryer) and see if you can fill it with the contents of a builders skip.  It's always better to ask them first though, because a smack in the mouth often offends.  Also the skip contents still technically belong to somebody!

I have seen allotment sheds and greenhouses made from old floor boards, pallets, corrugated iron sheets, baling string and even a bus shelter.  You often see big stones and lumps of concrete to hold down the roof.  I wouldn't recommend them though.  Mind you if you have gone to the trouble of digging up a giant boulder from your carrot bed, why not display it on the roof for all to see?  Nobody can ever say that you have an allotment Sisyphus complex can they?

Saying that.  I really believe that allotments are works of art.  Living, breathing self expression.  I would love to see the countryside full of allotments and dwellings for people to live in.  Do we really need greenbelt?  Who knows perhaps one day vegetable allotments will be preserved like they protect old agricultural labourers cottages.  Why not?  After all they are works of art.  Aren't they?

Any thoughts please!


  1. Yes, the Conservation Areas, complete with Listed Buildings Grades 1 & 2, and quite often TPOs as well. We wouldn't want to spoil the appearance of the area. We also have the Lake District Special Planning Authority, who ensure that most of tha Lake district is pretty much the same as it has been for a long time, the Romans would probably recognise some of it.

    Remember the case of a guy who wanted a modern front door, he lived ina unique house called Pepper-pot House in Cockermouth, on a very prominent corner with an eight-sided peel tower type construction in stone, very unusual. So they put a Grade 2 listed on it. The owner was a bit disgruntled and proceeded to put his nice new front door on, whereupon the Planners got a bit upset and started all sorts of legal actions to make him replace it with something in keeping with the property. After many months of legal wrangling, appeals, etc, the Planners won, and the man was ordered, under threat of something not nice happening to him, to replace the door.
    Which he did, then painted his stonework house a very bright shade of flourescent purple. This obviously msde it look totally out of keeping, it was so garish pilots were using it as a mark.
    Planners - 1
    Householder - 1

    Planners would hav us all live in identical shoe-box type houses on identical estates, and ideally with identical colour schemes.

    That's why I love to see allotment un-planned architecture, individuality at work, combined with recycling, evrything used, even like you say lumps of concrete holding the roof down - houses are usually built with walls to hold roofs up, allotment buildings need to have their roofs held down. Old bed frames were a favourite as well, with lots of ingenious uses.
    All done without the benefit of Planners.

    A lady picked up several items at a discount store. When she finally got to the checkout, she learned that one of the items had no price tag. The checkout girl got on the public address system, which boomed out across the store for everyone to hear, 'PRICE CHECK FOR TAMPAX SUPERSIZE'.
    But it got worse.
    Someone at the rear of the store apparently misunderstood the word 'Tampax' for 'Thumbtacks', and replied in a business like tone, his voice booming over the same public address system: 'Do you want the kind you push in with your thumb or the kind you belt in with a hammer?'

    Haven't seen cat today.

  2. Said it before Mr Cumbrian. You should have you're own blog.

    To quote my old mother:

    "You're all there with your cough drops".

    Think the saying derives from yet another one of my North-west heroes who used to walk from Wigan to Blackpool;

    "Now then missus".

    I do think Green belt is the biggest load of nonsense going. You can build a factory farm but you can't live in the countryside -unless you are rich.

    Talking of Wigan. Jane Fonda opened an aerobics class. One day she says:

    "Right girls hands on thighs."

    One of the girls said:

    "I can't see you."

    Think that the above joke is your best joke yet Mr Cumbrian.

    Alan (our cat Sugar) spent the day trying to paw (grab) a butterfly in the window. Hope Rags is home for it's tea!

    Usual thanks Mr Cumbrian!!

  3. Yes, green belts, very nice in theory, and in practice if it wasn't for all the get-outs, as you point out, a factory farm is somehow perfectly acceptable, but not a cottage for somebody to live in.
    And those with enough money seem to win every time.

    Quoting my beloved Lake District again, they build their windmills on the top of the fells, but deny a local person the necessary permission to build and live in traditional cottage.

    I'm all for keeping the lake District National Park as it should be, and uncontrolled development would obviously not be in keeping, but they don't seem to have any consistency, big business and big money always sems to win.

    A wife arrived home after a long shopping trip, and was horrified to find her husband in bed with a young, lovely thing. Just as she was about to storm out of the house, her husband stopped her with these words:

    "Before you leave, I want you to hear how this all came about. Driving home, I saw this young girl, looking poor and tired, I offered her a ride. She was hungry, so I brought her home and fed her some of the roast you had forgotten about in the refrigerator. Her shoes were worn out so I gave her a pair of your shoes you didn't wear because they were out of style. She was cold so I gave her that new birthday sweater you never wore even once because the color didn't suit you. Her slacks were worn out so I gave her a pair of yours that you don't fit into anymore. Then as she was about to leave the house, she paused and asked, 'Is there anything else that your wife doesn't use anymore?' "And so, here we are!"

    Raggy cat came in at about 8:30, sauntered over to the feeding dish, ate a few bicuits and a chicken leg (including bone) and is currently sleeping in front of the coal-effect gas fire (it's turnd cool again after a few nice warm days)

  4. Thanks for that Cumbrian. I totally agree with you about greenbelt. Up until recently here they would give a farmer a grant for a new slatted house and nothing for somebody building a dwelling. To quote the singer Wink Martindale:

    "I was that soldier."

    There is very little affordable housing where I live. Unless you buy a site and get planning permission and the bank lends you the money. That's a good one.

    I'm lucky in terms of having no mortgage. Had to get a loan for four thousand last year for a new well. However there is no work, public transport, shop or even a pub. Not that I could afford to go in it if I wanted to.

    The countryside is beautiful and peaceful but it seems to be no place for ordinary people. That's what's so good about allotments. They are great places to keep fit and have a laugh and a joke very cheaply - especially if you are unemployed or not working (what?) even retired.

    Did you hear about the magic tractor? It drove down the road and turned into a field!

    Sat outside last night in a vest in MARCH. Then they say there is no global warming.

  5. The other big up-side of allotment architecture (art-itecture) is the zero or very close to zero financial input, most of the construction materials are classed as rubbish.
    I think we've covered some of them. Old doors, pallets, rusty corrucated tin sheeting, metal bed frames, even the occasional building block or a few bricks left over from a long-forgotten project.

    Recycled windows are always in demand, in fact the timber ones are probably all about rotten now, but the replacement upvc (ultra poly-vinyl chloride) are now providing skip loads of double-glazed windows to recycle, an allotment builders dream, no painting, don't rust, don't rot, the ultimate find would be a full conservatory, ready-made double-glazed greenhouse.

    Yeah, get a site and planning approval in a nice rural area and a bank loan to build it, bit like teaching pigs to fly?

    Nice to sit outside, been very warm here as well, I've actually been sitting outside one after noon, sweaty from grass cutting, small vanilla cigar and glass or two of my fast-reducing keg of Irish stout. complete with sun-glasses.

    An old, white haired man walked into a jewelry store one Friday evening with a beautiful young gal at his side. He told the jeweler he was looking for a special ring for his girlfriend. The jeweler looked through his stock and brought out a £5,000 ring. The old man said, '"No, I'd like to see something more special." At that statement, the jeweler went to his special stock and brought another ring over. "Here's a stunning ring at only £40,000" the jeweler said. The young lady's eyes sparkled and her whole body trembled with excitement. The old man seeing this said, "We'll take it." The jeweler asked how payment would be made and the old man stated, "By check. I know you need to make sure my check is good, so I'll write it now and you can call the bank Monday to verify the funds and I'll pick the ring up Monday afternoon," he said. Monday morning, the jeweler phoned the old man. "There's no money in that account." "I know," said the old man, "But let me tell you about my weekend!"

    Raggy cat's sunbathing again, arrived home 0700, slept till 1200, the off outside sunbathing.

  6. Hi Cumbrian. Wouldn't a upvc conservatory (they call them 'Sun rooms' here in Ireland) be brilliant?

    I have also heard of a working class movement in Scotland called: 'Hutting or even 'Hutters'. People build or purchase huts in the countryside. You don't need a Chelsea tractor with plastic mud or a weekend house in the countryside.

    It sounds like you had a great afternoon with the keg of Irish stout, sun-glasses and small vanilla cigar. I happened to find my way to some cheap cans of Brandenberg lager this afternoon and we had a barbecue. Well it is MARCH. Must get some waterproofs for the rainy season - summer time!

    What do you call a man who used to like tractors but he doesn't anymore?

    An ex-tractor fan.

    Don't worry they get worse!!

    Thanks again Mr Cumbrian!!

  7. Yeah, sun rooms, a bit more up-market than a mere conservatory but just as expensive. You've got your fitted kitchen, double glazing, sauna, power shower, 42" plasma TV, wrap-round sound system, state of the art computer, now you need a sun room to get some peace in? (If you don't have an allotment with shed to escape to)

    The chelsea tractors, I wonder why people need these monsters to do the school run, I bet most of them never go off tarmac? They even have waxed jackets and, like you say, plastic cow dung.

    I like the idea of hutting though. Bet they do it in style though.

    Getting a bit cooler today, I still need to finish the bottom bit of the back garden, the jungle. Maybe tomorrow. if the weather holds.

    Stout's about finished, time for another brew day.

    After 20 years of marriage, a couple was lying in bed one evening, when the wife felt her husband begin to fondle her in ways he hadn't in quite some time..
    It almost tickled as his fingers started at her neck, and then began moving down past the small of her back.
    He then caressed her shoulders and neck, slowly worked his hand down over her breasts, stopping just over her lower stomach.
    He then proceeded to place his hand on her left inner arm, caressed past the side of her breast again, working down her side, passed gently over
    her buttock and down her leg to her calf. Then, he proceeded up her inner thigh, stopping just at the uppermost portion of her leg. He continued in the same manner on her right side, then suddenly stopped, rolled over and started to watch the tv.
    As she had become quite aroused by this caressing, she asked in a loving voice, 'That was wonderful. Why did you stop?'

    He said, 'I found the remote'

  8. The reason why you get a conservatory is so all your neighbours can see you eating your dinner in it.

    I think I nicked that from Victoria Wood?

    It would really like my own conservatory 'sun room' and one of those Wurlitzer juke boxes, with my own bar. That's another must these days. You can even purchase 'shed pubs'.

    I know somebody who made a round summer house out of wooden pallets and they did an excellent job. Would love a stone one or block rendered complete with fishing pond and lily pads and keep-net full of ale.

    My shoulders caught the sun yesterday. It's definitely going cooler though. The potatoes have started poking their arms (stalks) through the soil. So I am going to earth them up today with my Azada 'Crocodile' grubbing hoe. It's also brilliant for clearing ground.

    A drunken man accosts somebody in the street:

    "Scuse me. Can you tell me where the other side of the road is hiccup."

    Passer by.

    "Yes. It's over there."

    Drunken Man.

    "Some idiot just said it was over here."

    Thanks Cumbrian.

  9. Dave! I reckon there's a coffee table book just waiting to be made: 'The Art of Allotments' - or somesuch. No really, I bet it would be a best seller. Or, poss., mebbes you could transport a whole allotment shed to the Tate Gallery a la Tracey Emin! Seriously, though - I reckon there's coffee table book in there somewhere. I mean, talk about ready made audience - every one I know is growing potatoes in buckets (or something). It's all cos of Hugh Fernly-Thing bloke and his farm. I bet you, if you made that book, going round photographing all the weird sheds (cos some of 'em ARE corkers!!), I bet it would sell! p.s. I like your cows, are they all boys??

  10. Hiya Carol. Think "The Art of Allotments' is a good idea but think it's probably been done? Yes there are books on Amazon about sheds and allotment. I have quite a few book ideas but I am actually enjoying writing the blogs and my writing again! That's what it's all about isn't it?

    Think the Tracy Emin Allotment Shed for the Tate is an absolute winner. Well they bought a pile of bricks didn't they?

    Not all our cows are boys. Two of them are heifers. Which means they have not yet had babies.

    When I started allotmenting (about 20 years ago) there were loads of overgrown allotments. Now I believe there is a waiting list of 100000+ for them.

    Keep writing the blog Carol it makes me laugh every week!

    Ta very much!!


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