We are delighted to see that the fence at Oxford Spires Academy has been extended to go down the entire length of the hedge bordering our site.
Our warmest congratulations go to Ellen and Etienne (Plot A25b) who have won the coveted “Best Under-35 Allotment of the Year” award at the Oxford and District Federation of Allotments Associations awards’ evening. This is in competition with all of the other allotment associations in the City of Oxford. Ellen received the shield at the West Oxford Allotments on 28th October.
Other entries included Cliff and Annie who were awarded a certificate and were highly commended. The category in which they were entered is shrouded in mystery.
James and Christine were also awarded a certificate and were highly commended in the “Newcomers” category.
Barracks Lane Allotments came a creditable fourth overall.
These maps are taken from the archive of Ordnance Survey maps held at the National Library of Scotland. They chart the gradual development of the area.
This is an image from Google Earth taken in 1945. It shows the allotments having spilled over into the area now occupied by the student flats, as well as a significant area of the golf course. This is part of the “Dig for Victory” campaign of the Second World War.
This wider image shows the whole of Florence Park being under cultivation.
These are photographs taken by Henry Taunt (1842 – 1922). He began taking photographs in 1860. He travelled widely through the county, and beyond to neighbouring counties and to London. In 1889 he rented out Canterbury House (which he later re-named Riviera) and built a workshop at the back of the property. The house is on Cowley Road, just south of the Glanville Road junction, and has a blue plaque commemorating Taunt’s time there.
These are a few of the hundreds of images of Taunt’s photographs on the Historic England website; they are also available, including as high density images, at Oxfordshire History Centre and other County libraries
With 14000 images surviving there are many of the area around his home.
Many thanks to a band of helpers who were able to line the sides of the polytunnel with wood chippings. The group included Liz, Pam, Stephen, Dave, Rebecca, Christine and James.
We have another much larger pile of wood chippings; these are going to cover the picnic area at the top of the hill.
The water has been turned off on-site until the spring.
As part of their 100th anniversary celebrations The Oxford and District Federation of Allotment Associations have published a book entitled “A Growing Concern. It is available from the Museum shop in the Town Hall, priced £6.00
Its authors Phil Baker and Wendy Skinner Smith draw on contributions from the constituent associations; our own Stephen Pegg wrote in the book this piece about Barracks Lane.
BARRACKS LANE ALLOTMENTS
Both fields of BLA have been sites of activity since ancient times, with a Roman pottery kiln on the boundary to the east and a late medieval quarry a stone’s throw to the south. The heavy clay, sandier in some areas, has been cultivated or used as a hayfield for centuries; two undated aerial photos show allotment plots extending north up on to what is now the Golf Club and south on to The Spires playing fields, probably because of wartime requirements. Links Allotments (as we were originally called) came into being during World War II then split from Bartlemas Close in 2012, later to create its own constitution and new name.
It is a pleasant very open site of about 4.5 acres and, with college woods, school playing fields and a golf course on three sides, has a rural feel, especially with regard to voracious muntjac, vandalous badgers and the strange scream of vixens late dusk. From a perusal of the records, it is clear that demographics have changed greatly : we now have more single persons, women, young married couples and plots shared by Associate Members. Some changes reflect a general reorientation of allotments to their community – we regularly welcome young children from a local school into a thinly–wooded area set aside for them. Cultivation techniques range from fluttering miles of Mypex to altitudinous raised beds (a 1:15 slope means bottom plots can get very wet after storms).
Following some years of inertia, we are now enjoying a very active period; there is a waiting list and our five or so working parties a year get ‘stuck in’. Projects for this year include a recreational seating area and…The Polytunnel. Standards are high – though not as demanding as in the 50’s and 60’s when meeting minutes mention posses of committee members visiting prospective allottees at home to inspect the state of their gardens! Notes from other meetings include : (1945) Chairman’s pears have been pilfered (1970) Mr and Mrs F. (who now have the neatest plot on site) sent a stern letter (1985) Mr H. has been found sleeping in his shed again (1990) Committee is not sure whether M. is allowed her geese.
Both ‘A’ and ‘B’ Fields are rich in memories, most of which are passed on between moans about the weather and a cup of tea. The Shed, for example, a big breeze-block affair of the 60’s which stored everything and up to 20 years ago featured the shop selling potatoes, onion sets and bagged-up chemicals (thankfully replaced by organics, bar the odd sprinkle of Growmore) now replaced by The Container, painted a nice shade of woodland green. Some plotholders live on in the folklore: Mary S., who famously found uses for vast quantities of black knicker-elastic (still being dug up) in all her allotment activities; Margaret C., whose love of animals drove her to distraction when a member chased a pheasant intending to impale it with his fork. M.’s sympathies were with the bird. She pursued the Greek gentleman all round the field threatening him with hers. A policeman had to be summoned to convince M. of the ill-advised nature of homicide.
Remembering and celebrating a tradition of cultivation in this place, we look forward to continuing our stewardship.