Friday, 27 September 2013

My Old Broom

Let me tell you about my old broom. I have had my old broom neigh on twenty years and in all that time it has never let me down. Sitting outside the back door it has been on constant call when ever needed. To sweep away debris from the summer rains the leaves from the autumn storm and snow from winter paths. Always it has done a good job at whatever task it is called on to perform, a faithful tool, an extension to my arm, and after five new heads and two handles it is as good today as when I bought it all those years ago.
(with a passing nod to Edward Lear)

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Fleeing Flytippers

Not the tuneful feathered warbler that visits us in the summer to rear its young (that's a fly catcher) before returning south for the winter, no these are rouges who are with us year round and country wide. In my very first blog 'Lets get started' I mentioned that the abandoned allotments had been victim to fly tipping on an industrial scale, but now back in use and secured they are safe from this scourge. Alas the lane that leads to them is not and so every 6-8 weeks a truck load gets dumped along its length. Thankfully only twice in the three years the allotment have been back up and running has the lane been blocked to all traffic. Lately though the tippers have left their rubbish at the rear emergency access to St Martins Primary School and I am sure the rotten devils do it because they know the Council will have to clear it up within 24 hours.
They are hard to catch but mid-summer a plucky lady plot holder leaving the site late came across a truck with the back up and about to tip. The startled operator quickly dropped the back down again, threw back on the bits lying about and went to leave. Meanwhile our hero locked herself in the car and called the police while the rouge was shouting obscenities at her through the window. Shaken she learned that the police caught up with the driver and had a 'chat with him'. Incredible as it may seem there are stiff penalties for fly tipping, fines of up to £5000, seizure of vehicles and paying the costs to the council, but for the most part its treated as a misdemeanour by the police and left to individual authorities to pursue a prosecution.
Two things strike me as wrong here, one, the actions of the rouge to the lady constitute 'threatening behaviour' under the criminal justice act, and secondly carrying waste without a licence from the department of environment gets an on the spot fine of £300. Maybe the police were not aware of the former and of the latter, well maybe he did have a waste licence. Which got me thinking. A quick check of the small adds in the local paper revealed six offering a waste clearance service, all licenced, but who is to say that any rubbish you pay them to clear goes to a waste disposal site.  It is an attractive option for the rouge to pocket the money he has charged for disposal, since it is tax free, as 150kg of waste will cost approximately £60 if taken to an official site. What would it be for a truck load! Its worth remembering that any dumped rubbish that can be traced back to a householder makes them liable to the fines and penalties.
Before you start thinking that I'm getting hot under the collar about nothing let me just tell you the scale of this problem. Official Government figures for England and Wales for the year 2011-12 give 744,000 incidents of fly tipping which cost local authorities £37.4m to clear up, in that same period there were just 2,800 successful prosecutions against the fly tippers. Now what does that tell you!. As for our local MVDC (Mole Valley District Council) there were 915 incidents which cost the local rate payer £41,654 to clear up. That's me, and I am incensed.
 These figures are for public places and do not take into account waste, sometimes hazardous waste at that, being dumped on private land such as the National Trust and farms which costs for the NT a lump out of their charitable subscriptions (me again) and for farmers a cut in profits. No one seems to be able to get a handle on this and the best I've heard is that as its so difficult to stop maybe we should just let them take it free of charge to the waste sites. What they do not realise that not only would we pay per tonne the going rate for disposal but also a Government Tax of £80 a tonne on top. We have the laws to stop or at least curb it. LETS USE THEM.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Open days

Nerve centre DAHA command
allotment veg
and tea and cake
Every year DAHA hold an open day on one of the five allotments that are in Mole Valley District Council control. The objective is to raise awareness of allotments and get people interested in growing their own food, or anything else for that matter (though the council might object to a plot full of hemp) and put their name on the waiting list. A healthy waiting list after all is a good argument that allotment sites are a community asset and worth protecting.
This year it was the turn of St Paul's Allotment Gardens which lie, as the name suggest, close to the church of St Pauls and next to the Church school of the same name. Behind it are the Glory Woods, which were given to the town of Dorking by the Duke of Newcastle in 1929. 32 acres of the most natural woodland that you will ever find in Surrey.
What I like about this site of 83 plots is that they are allowed to have sheds, which we are not on Ranmore. There is nothing more typical of an allotment than its shed, to the point that people wax lyrical about them, paint them, draw them, and take pictures of them. they can be brand new but are more likely to be, in the best tradition of 'make do and mend', created out of anything at hand. Some were once Anderson air raid shelters and look ready for another conflict while others are just simply falling down. Officialdom see them as an eyesore and ugly but each has the character of its creator stamped on it.
The plots also reflect the people that tend them. One is quite literally a garden with lawn flower beds fruit cage and vegetable patch that would not be out of place in any semi in England, only these plot holders live in a terraced house in the middle of Dorking. Another is a secluded chalet with picket fence and honeysuckle and roses for family time together. Others are there to fight the good fight against slug and weed to grow food that is free of chemicals and not irradiated so it still looks great after weeks in the fridge. There are apple trees old beyond years, rosehips and sunflowers, water tanks made from old baths and scarecrows watching over kiddies toys. If anything could be greater than the sum of it parts then this is it.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

It's Show Time!

A 1st
Living in a small town like Dorking, closely bounded on all sides by protected land, and without the pernicious ribbon of development that has turned our cities into urban sprawl, it is not surprising that the villages surrounding us have retained their own individual characters. One of these is the ubiquitous village fete and their flower and vegetable show (a bit like midsummer but without the bodies). Whenever we have visited such a show I have often said, as you do, 'I could better than that' but somehow never got round to actually doing it. Now all this has changed as at DAHA's Spring into Action event last March the lovely Lady who is the membership secretary of the Dorking Gardeners Club set out her stall to attract new members. I joined! albeit tempted with free membership until Christmas, but tell me an allotment holder who is not tight, well that's my excuse anyway.
and another
and another
The June show came and went (not into roses) but my sights were set on the late summer show at the end of August. However I must admit to a certain trepidation as the judging is to RHS rules and even worse the home produce by the WI. I decided as I had no idea what to do that I would ease myself into it with just 12 entries, avoiding the complicated tying up of onions and shallots sitting in a bed of sand etc. I had read that on the web and was surprised that was just about all I could find about judging as apparently it is all in the RHS publication they want you to buy (£7.95 from Amazon and probably a lot more from Wisley). I need not have worried as the other members were very helpful and put me straight as well as pointing out that this wasn't Medwyn Williams world (umpteenth winner of the Chelsea Gold Medal). They did however suck air when I mentioned that my jam, that I'm inordinately proud of, had a wax disc on top. I would, they said, get a note attached by the Judge from the Women's Institute. I did.
After judging the hall is thrown open to the public who are about 99%  those who had entered an exhibit (they are not huge crowd pullers), but how had I done. Well, rather well for a newbie with 5-1st, 3-2nd, 2-3rd, and prize money that covered the cost of entering, but not the obligatory cup of tea and a slice of cake. So now I have gone from 'if they wanted perfection they should have gone to Waitrose' to what else I can show to get my hands on one of those silver things they give out at the end. Mercenary!
One thing that was noticeable was a lack of young faces which I suppose should be qualified as to just what is a young face at a place like this, wearing a pair of sennheiser with an ipod stuck in your belt won't cut the mustered as they would think your deaf and just shout at you. It's like that walking down Dorking High Street when I humorously ascribe with that typical English double edged irony 'this place is full of old people'. Its been good fun though, can't wait for the next one.
for the sake of a wax disc!