It’s in the Soil

…attempts to define a landscape necessitate judgements of cultural value, and throw up issues of power, authority and pleasure…[1]

The sun shone briefly, before clouds gathered, and rain set in again. We seek shelter in the shed, but not for long; the forecast is for heavy showers and that’s what we’re getting. The site appears deserted, maybe a little neglected, but it’s the season, the time of year. Standing on this hillside, or sitting drinking tea by the fire pit, we seem to have the valley to ourselves. But look again, there’s a scattering of people working their plots between the showers. Someone walks along the track though the valley, a small group passes by on their way to one of the allotments run collectively; during any day there will be people moving about this valley.

New plot holders, above us, have been clearing the skeletal remnants of a polytunnel Joe erected years ago, the plastic sheeting long since disintegrated. Other people moved on after he died, stayed a short time, then left, and with each successive leaving the plot became more neglected, abandoned to bindweed and nettle; it’s now being slowly cleared. Joe’s long since gone, but his presence is felt in the tap he installed by diverting water from the mains, or so he told us during one of our many disputes over access to water. He’d leave a pipe permanently attached to water his tomatoes in the polytunnel. An arson attack leveled his shed, left the Sycamore badly damaged and dangerous.

From the outside, maybe to someone walking the perimeter path, this site probably looks ramshackle, but what they don’t see is a process of constant change and renewal that this common ground undergoes, nor the histories that this land holds. Thinking about Joe, Arthur, talking to Gladys, who’ll soon be 92 and still working her plot; from the outside these lives, and the memories they carry with them of this landscape, remain invisible.

We are all temporary occupants; some will last a season, others, like Gladys and Georgina, stay for years, working, shaping the ground, but always in the knowledge that this land is not ours, doesn’t belong to us, isn’t our private property. The longer we stay, working, shaping, improving the soil, the more we hope the next occupants, strangers to us, will appreciate the work we’ve done over the years, and build on it, but maybe not. Looking at the photograph one of the site reps gave us when we first took on our plot, it has changed beyond recognition; perhaps those who follow us will do the same, and make it theirs for however long they choose to stay. For Crouch & Ward how we relate collectively through the unselfconscious landscape that [we] create […] is part of [our] individual and collective identity. It is and should remain public land, ground that we have responsibility for, land held collectively.

winter allotment view

 [1] Matless, D. (1998) Landscape and Englishness. London: Reaktion Books, p 13

Roedale Valley

This is the first in a series of four short films we are making across the seasons on Roedale Valley, our allotment site, on the edge of Brighton, UK.
Its spring and Gladys and Georgina reflect on the changes that have happened since they first took on tenancies over 30 years ago.

Craven Vale (Jane’s Plot)

This is the 3rd. in our series of short films about Craven Vale allotment site, on the eastern edge of Brighton, UK.
We continue our exploration of the value of these green spaces, in a densely populated urban environment, in the context of the ongoing threat posed by potential development for housing.

 

 

Craven Vale (the carers plot)

This is the 2nd. in our series of short films about Craven Vale allotment site, on the eastern edge of Brighton, UK. This allotment site is currently included in Brighton council’s urban fringe assessment, as potential development land.

We spoke to Sara Padhair-Tutton, who started the carers plot, and Warren Morgan, leader of the Labour and Cooperative group on Brighton and Hove council, about the value of allotments and green spaces in a densely peopled environment.

Craven Vale

We are making a series of short films, over the seasons, about Craven Vale Allotment Site, on the eastern edge of Brighton, UK. The site has been identified, in the Urban Fringe Assessment for Brighton’s City Plan, as potential development land for housing. Nationally, councils have been directed by central government to produce a City Plan. Without a plan which sets out local councils’ development priorities, the decisions on what gets built where, will be taken by central governent without any proper reference to local need and desires. So, this assessment is essential, but, in Brighton, it’s been poorly researched, and with minimal consultation, to date.

These films will capture peoples’ stories of growing, and the value they attach to green spaces on the urban fringe.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

A Boon for Illegal Timber Use and Increased Soil Sealing

I recommend reading this post from @european trees; it raises the likelihood that the proposed removal of planning control will further damage our already compromised landscape. We may yet find our gardens, forests & ferociously defended green belt sacrificed to the profits of property developers & others.

europeantrees

The UK government are to relax planning rules for a ‘limited period’ in order to ‘boost the economy’.

Revitalising the Georgian suburban dream ties in very nicely with the Georgian economic mind of Chancellor George and maybe it is the greater emphasis of the ‘Great’ in Great Britain in a year it can celebrate itself due to the Olympics that has so easily persuaded the government that the UK is actually in competition with the rest of the world and building a Jerusalem to the exacting standards of Margot Leadbetter is what is needed.

In following the desperate bletherings of a thinktank employee, who has been put on the spot without reference material, these planning proposals further diminishes a flagging respect for what was ‘Great’ in Great Britain – reasoned intelligent progressive innovative thinking – based on scientific or academic research.

Total ignorance of any signed treaties or conventions…

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On Whitehawk Hill: Olia & Gloria

Our latest film made with volunteers who work on the Whitehawk Food Project, Brighton, UK.
‘On Whitehawk Hill’ is part of a series, collectively called Standing on Common Ground, focusing on different aspects of community food growing; although the experiences are local, the issues discussed have wider implications for community and wellbeing.