On Hunger Hill it is no surprise to be told of Nottingham’s hidden past of poverty. The hosiery slump caused famine in the 1830’s, The Salvation Army founded in Sneinton off below this terraced allotment across the valley of St. Anne’s Well Road kept quiet, and now Nottingham, within the confines of the overgrown town, has the lowest per capita income of any English city. Hunger Hill is a No Man’s Land in the lee of smug Mapperley, a linear leafy suburb strung along a fairly steep ridge to Top Valley. This is Nottingham.
Here though in the 50ft south facing glasshouse I might be in Provence among well ordered rows of sunflowers, leeks, raspberries, salad, onions, beans, cabbages, beetroot and carrots.
In the frightfully modern polytunnels grow cash crops of every salad and herb.
It’s wrong to think of England as a scrawny fragmented scrubland of random hawthorns bent to the bracing wind where exotic species flounder. In this Intensive Urban Organic Market Garden foods are perfected, harvested and ready to eat. Free of chemicals and drenched by sweet pure rainwater they don’t even have to be washed.
Caribbean men and woman grow Thyme and Hot Chilli Peppers over on yonder hill, but there are English Natives growing these under controlled conditions in pollytunnels.
I see a dragonfly, a yellowhammer, and a woodpecker, and many anthropomorphic wasps annoyed perhaps at their own imminent demise. (You may understand this only if you have a valid up-to date poetic licence). For a moment I feel safe, invincible even, but the gardens are slowly, gracefully dying.
The summer of 2009 is the best since1950 raining first in early summer on these orchards of plums, apples and blackberries. A hot ‘bleezing’ summer followed by an Indian one.
As usual the best fruit and vegetables were ending up in middle class baskets but The Slump saw a shift to serving the Deserving Poor with subsidised food.
Whilst the private allotment system is haemorrhaged by selfish instincts, despite The Slump, Collective Urban Market Gardening marches on but farming needs time and labour. It’s odd and disappointing frankly, that youth has not been mobilised to create a New Dig For Victory.
I am thorough and valuable and am rewarded with bags of organic food. Gardening is hard work and takes time, and is a distraction: Perfect for The Unemployed. Cycle back and forth to the gardens paying no bus fares on the way.