Life on the Weald (and other places) - March 2020
It's now official; February was the wettest month since records began and at the beginning of March the soil was still waterlogged and heavy. The last day of February continued with very heavy rain, with Storm Jorge arriving on 27 Feb, so Sunday morning, 1st March, was a complete surprise with clear blue skies and sunshine. Unfortunately we weren't at home, so another possible day on the allotment was missed! But it was very good news for the Big Half, the half marathon being held in Greenwich. It was cold but dry and we had a great viewing spot on board the Cutty Sark overlooking the finish line.
|1 March - Selfie on board Cutty Sark in front of Royal Naval College and Maritime Museum|
It was great to see the World 5,000 km and 10,000 km champion, Bekele, break the course record and come home in just over 1 hour.
|Bekele wins the Big Half (half marathon)|
A slightly slower finisher was former World Heavyweight boxing champion, Frank Bruno, now 58! We had met over thirty years ago at the London Marathon when I was Mayor of Greenwich. Frank was the official starter for the London Marathon Elite Race in 1989 and I had been the starter for the public mass start (after starting the race, I stripped off and ran the 26 miles!).
|With Frank Bruno outside Greenwich Park before the 1989 London Marathon|
I missed seeing Frank's finish but caught up with him after the race - interesting to see if we had changed at all in over 31 years!
|With Frank Bruno under the Cutty Sark after the 2020 Big Half|
I was also pleased to meet up with the Leader of Greenwich Council, Danny Thorpe, after he had completed the run. It seems I have established a tradition of Greenwich Council Leaders and Mayors running marathons.
|With Cllr Danny Thorpe (and medal) after the Big Half 2020|
With such a change of weather, I was hopeful for a good week on the allotment but was soon brought back to reality arriving back in Brighton to pouring rain and cold winds!
Monday morning, however, 2nd March was another pleasant surprise, cold but with clear skies and little wind so I ventured to the Weald.
|At The Weald, Monday 2 March|
Despite the pleasant weather, some of the tracks and footpaths were still full of deep puddles and the ground underfoot was soggy. I attempted to do some digging but it was an uphill task. I managed to turn over a couple of rows where the brassicas will go and remove some of the weeds and this will help the ground dry out a bit. If we do have a frost that will be a bonus I (although it might not be such good news for the autumn sown broad beans which are beginning to flower!)
|Extending the cabbage patch - 2 March|
I inspected the broad beans. The autumn sown Aquadulce were in flower and although the later planted out beans were battered, they had survived Storms Ciara and Dennis.
|Bunyard's Exhibition broad beans, planted out in February|
|Aquadulce broad beans planted out in February|
Although the pigeons had pecked at the broccoli leaves, the florets seemed intact. Last month I had picked the growing heads and was pleased to see that the side shoots were now looking good and I was able to pick a reasonable crop.
|Purple sprouting broccoli - 2 March|
|Purple sprouting broccoli - 2 March|
I also picked some rather good looking rhubarb which I had put a bucket over last month to slightly force, but it didn't need it.
|First picking of rhubarb 2020|
|trench for potatoes|
|trench partially filled with compost|
|1st earlies planted|
|two rows of first early potatoes - 6 March|
We have enough potatoes for a third row but this will require clearing a bit more of the old brassica bed and I decided that was a task for another day! Time for a sit down and admire my work.
|Time for a rest and admire my handiwork|
I had also been persuaded by Sylvi to plant some asparagus and we had bought 6 crowns.
We decided to use two of the raised beds where shallots had been grown last year. Unfortunately the beds had been invaded by raspberries which have a habit of sending out runners, spreading across the plot and are quite deep rooted. Together, on 9 March we made a determined effort - it was quite hard work as the raspberries were quite deep rooted. I am sure there are still some runners lurking deep so we will have to keep an eye out and remove any shoots in their infancy.
|the beginning of the asparagus bed|
|asparagus crown planted with roots draped over mound|
On 28 February there had been a report of the first Coronavirus, Covid19 infection in UK but contacts had been tracked and the number of incidents in early March were low in the UK but there was a large outbreak in Italy. We had planned to go to Spain on 12 March and checked the Foreign Office travel advice. They did not advise against travel but suggested avoiding Madrid and an area in the north. As the government advice was that it was OK to travel, we would not have been able to get a refund if we changed or cancelled our flights and, as there had been no identified cases in the south and south east of Spain, where we were planning to go, we decided to proceed with the trip.
On arrival we decided to stock up for the week but found that, due to panic buying, some of the supermarket shelves were empty.
|Supermarket Santa Pola 14 March|
|preparing fish for supper|
Surprisingly there were no health checks and no advice or information on our arrival at Gatwick Airport and although travellers from Spain had been in lockdown for several days, some in areas where there were many confirmed cases, they were free to get on to public transport and travel anywhere in the UK. It was only when we arrived home that we heard on the news that returnees from Spain were advised to go into self isolation (i.e. stay at home) for 14 days. A few days later the same advice was given to the whole UK population other than essential workers. The government then said that one trip a day to go shopping for food and essentials or for exercise was OK so long as a 2 metre distance was kept from other people. It was a great relief when, on the following day, the government said going to the allotment was OK so long as social distancing was observed. So, on 23 March I made a brief visit to our plot.
I managed to find a few remaining baby leeks. The main crop had all been lifted but there were a few which had remained in the original seed bed that had not been planted out and there was plenty of chard and rhubarb to be harvested.
|last of the baby leeks|
I was happy to spend some of my self isolation using the chard and leeks to make Spanokopita and the rhubarb to make a rhubarb and yoghourt cake with a recipe given to me by Selina, a nearby plot holder.
|Rhubarb and yoghourt cake|
|Charlotte Russe Mulberry bush|
In addition to the main lawn, we have a small secondary lawn which was in poor condition and in need of relaying, so I decided to dig this up and grow some potatoes. This part of the lawn was very patchy and past attempts to reseed it had failed.
|the rather patchy lawn|
|roots under surface of the lawn|
|the former lawn in transition|
|the former lawn almost ready for planting|
Back on the allotment, there was the same problem in some areas of compacted soil..A couple of weeks earlier the clay soil was so waterlogged and heavy it was almost impossible to dig, now it had set like concrete
|27 March - compacted clay|
|27 March - garlic|
|27 March - Electra onions|
|extending the potato patch 27 March|
|21 days after planting the first two rows of first earlies|
we were ready to plant a third row
Time to relax at home and enjoy some of the home-grown broccoli with some locally caught fish from our fishmonger by Hove Lagoon who, during lockdown, are delivering to our door.