A Spring of Isolation

With everything that is going on in the world, I am very grateful to have my little allotment plot. Somewhere to relax, get some exercise and fresh air and most importantly, to stay away from people. Although really, not much in my life as changed as I am pretty anti social anyway; but I hope you’re all staying safe out there.

Spring has finally sprung. The ground has finally dried out [perhaps a little too dry!] so we can now crack on with turning the ground over and getting some seeds sown. Red and white onion sets have been planted, along with some red spring onion and some Chioggia beeetroot seeds.

Once Tom had dug the ground, I had to break down the clumps of clay between my hands and add in compost so that the soil would be good enough to sow the seeds directly into. The sets were easy enough to plant in the soil as it was, we just covered them with compost. Seeds wouldn’t have thrived in the soil as it was so we did our best to improve the quality. With all of the rain the last few months, the clay in the soil seems to have become even denser making the ground much harder to work; I think we will need to invest in some clay breaker.

The sweet peas have been planted outside, although part of me wishes I had left it another week or two as there have been a couple of frosts since planting them. They were beginning to outgrow their pots, so I thought planting them was for the best. Unfortunately they don’t look as green as they did, but they have fared better than expected. I have wrapped them in some bubble wrap in hope that it protects them from any further damage in the meantime.

The strawberry patch has now been boxed off. Because of the size of the pallet wood we had, we decided to shorten the plot but make it a little wider. Luckily only a handful of plants needed to be moved. I’m still unsure what to do with the plot behind the strawberries, originally it was going to be a wild flower plot but now I’m not so sure. The plot is quite awkward as the elder tree and brambles grow over it, any suggestions would be appreciated.

Now really is the time to get seeds planted. Tom had ran out of space on his windowsill, so he whipped up two shelves out of pallet wood to double the space. Another level might be needed at this rate!

Spring is always a good time to clean; the shed had become somewhat unruly after winter. We emptied out the shed, swept up the dirt and dust [a somewhat repetitive and fruitless task] and reorganised the drawers underneath the workbench. The back of the shed had also become somewhat askew with all of the empty plant pots and scraps of wood from the summer before. The pots were put in size order and the wood that had rotted is now in a pile to be disposed of. I freshened up the window box and some of the pallet bin with a lick of paint as well, as they were looking a little drab after winter.

Amongst all the uncertainly of current times and most places being closed, I celebrated my birthday down at the allotment. It was a beautiful, sunny day. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. We managed to achieve a lot, but left some time for tea and cake.

One can only hope that allotments continue to be accessible for everyone in the coming months so people are able to enjoy the fresh air and get some exercise. I know it will be a vital place for me.

Stay safe, friends.

Robyn Hode of Sherwode

Previously encompassing over 100,000 acres, modern day Sherwood forest covers just over 1000 acres. Once a royal hunting forest, it was illegal to hunt the King’s deer and boar. Naturally, some people chose to ignore this and would hunt in the dead of night; but what would they do with the carcass? The Butcher’s Oak, also known as Robin Hood’s Larder was believed to have been where Robin and his band of merry men hid their hunting yields. It was fairly common for hollow trees to be used as storage for food and The Major Oak was probably used for this purpose at some point in its life as well.

300 years to grow
300 years to live
300 years to die

This has long been the rhyme of the life cycle of oak trees.

The Major Oak has hollowed over time and has a small entry, allowing people to sneak in and out; it is believed to be around 1000 years old. Robin Hood, a medieval Yeoman an skilled archer and his men were frequent visitors to The Major Oak, often hiding from the Sheriff of Nottingham or just catching 40 winks.

He and his merry men were always on the run from the law, hiding in the relative safety of the forest. As outlaws of the land, they were left with no defences. They would find solace in one another, making a living by hunting on the King’s ground; robbing from the rich and giving to the poor and lawless. Robin was a well known trickster, although courteous with it. Even after charming the unsuspecting travellers out of their purses, he would often feast with them.

The oldest song that Robin Hood is referenced in is “A Gest of Robyn Hode“, which dates from around the 1500s. Although, the tale was known to have been around much longer before being documented. Robin was believed to have been born in the early 12th century.

Sherwood has been referred to as The Greenwood in several tales and songs; The Major Oak has been a vital meeting point throughout the ages. Rules and law of the land were void once you entered the Greenwood; fairies would frolic and love would bloom. Thieves would sneak and hunters would take.

Was Robin who we think he was? The name Robin has, in the past been used as another name for fairies. Always known to be dressed in green, this would have provided the perfect camouflage for Robin in Sherwood; but it was also commonly known as the “fairy colour”.

Perhaps, the persona of Robin attached to the spirit of the Green Man? The Green Man has long been known as the protector of the forest, but with the spread of Christianity most lore of pagan origin was placed under a guise.

Irrespective of who or what Robin Hood was, he was a man of many faces and holds countless secrets. Robin has connections to many parts of the country and he is an integral part of English folklore to this day. I can only hope that his tale is told for many generations to come.

Frames, Canes & Weather Ordeals

Hard to believe it has been a month since my last allotment update, but alas life (and the weather) has got in the way. Annoyingly, the ground is still too wet to plant anything directly; the potatoes and onion sets should be okay to plant a little later on. It is still frustrating when you want to get on with things but are unable to because of reasons that are out of your control.

We have since erected an archway (well, two that we joined with canes) so that we are able to grow various climbers over the path. Last year we had two bean tepees that grew over the path, but we thought the archways would be more structurally sound.

Whilst we aren’t able to plant anything into the ground, we have started to plant some seeds. We have only planted Jalapenos and Lemon Peppers so far; in regards to edible things at least. We wanted to see how successful the germination would be with our DIY propagator. It seems so have done the trick; 6 Jalapenos and 5 Lemon Peppers have germinated thus far, so we well set up more little propagators on any windowsill we can.

The rhubarb is starting to outgrow its pot. The crown below is one I purchased last year, the other three are currently resting in the compost heap at home. They seem to have recovered quite well and have grown back without any pest damage. Last year, the crowns appeared to have been eaten away by something. We’re planning to make a raised bed for the crowns we have in hope that we can avoid pest damage in the future.

The strawberry patch will also be boxed off soon, the runners have made the plot wider than we originally intended and they will continue to do so once the warmer weather arrives. Even the neighbours have gained some strawberries!

Some more sweet peas were planted about two weeks ago and some have germinated, hopefully more will germinate. The herbs have burst back into life and add some much needed colour to the allotment.

Here’s hoping that April doesn’t bring its showers.

Aquae Sulis & The Roman Baths

It is believed that the Celts of the land worshipped this spring, in honour of their god Sulis. Sulis was the goddess of fertility and the sun. She was a goddess local to the Bath area, with the only mention of her outside of England is in small German town. Sulis was also known as the deity of healing waters.

When the Romans came in 43AD, they took over the area and the sacred springs. The Romans saw their god Minerva in Sulis; eventually leading the two gods to become Sulis Minerva.

The head of a Sulis Minvera statue, discovered in 1727

A temple was soon built on Britain’s only hot spring in around 60AD, evolving into a bathhouse over a 300 year period. Just over a century after the Romans left Britain [in the 5th century], the baths had been completely abandoned. The site had silted up over the years of neglect, leaving it useless. By the 7th century, Anglo-Saxon Christian converts had began building churches nearby; several versions have existed throughout the ages.

Later, in around the 12th century, the Kings Bath was added on top of what was once the Sacred Spring. This bath differed to the Roman one, as it provided seats for bathers. With this, the bathers were able to be immersed in the water up to their necks; to make the most of the waters healing powers. The seat on the south side was added in the 17th century. As you can see, the water level has been lowered to keep it in line with Roman levels.

The terrace and the statues were added in the 19th century, when the site was being prepared as a tourist destination. Unfortunately, the original statue of Julius Caesar was vandalised. The one you see today around 30 years old and of a different, slightly gaudy style.

Even now it is encouraged to drink the water from the sacred spring, due to the plethora of minerals found in it.

Stormy Days

The allotment is starting to really come to life now, the strawberry patch needed weeded and some strawberries were hiding underneath. It is quite surprising to see fruit so early on in the year.

England has been battered by both storm Ciara and storm Dennis in the past week, so we knew we had to try and prepare the allotment. The bird feeder and lose pots were moved inside the shed and the pallets were laid on top of the carpet to keep it in place.

Storm Ciara didn’t cause too much damage to our shed, it just knocked off the fascia board on the front but that was an easy fix. The garden behind us on the other hand didn’t fare so well. The allotment had just about dried out before the storm hit. I was hoping we could finish turning the soil over, but alas it will have to wait once more.

The sweet peas will be ready to plant out by March, the risk of frost should have passed by then. It is important to plant them out before the warmer weather sets in, as sweet peas prefer cooler temperatures. I’ll probably be planting some more seeds up in the next week or two, they’re one of my favourite flowers – they always remind me of my Grandma. I’d like them all around the allotment, it just depends on how many germinate.

Out of the two varieties I have planted so far, the type that have done the best are Mr Fothergills “Twilight, 9 out of the 16 have germinated. The other type I had planted were Unwin’s “Berry Kiss”, but only three out of 16 have germinated. I planted these back in November, so unfortunately I have only had a 33.33% success rate with germination overall. Two seeds were planted per tube.

Perhaps it was due to them being left in the shed rather than a greenhouse, they were left by the window and were wrapped with some insulation but obviously it is no match in comparison to the temperatures you can get in a greenhouse.

We have been forcing the rhubarb and there has been some growth by doing so. The root was only purchased in the summer so is not mature enough to harvest this year, although we will probably take it out of the pot and plant it once the ground has dried out. Hopefully, we will be able to harvest it next year.

Here’s to the warmer, drier days.