Saturday, July 8, 2017

Down the Riviera

Garden retreats are a balm for my soul, and one of my favorites has been lovingly created over several years by my dear in-laws.  As in many UK communities, Mom and Dad have access to allotments, which are garden plots that can be rented from the town council.  Unique in their case is the fact that their allotments are directly across the street from their front door.  The wonderful result is a view of their garden and the farm fields beyond.   

Mom and Dad were both raised in this mining village; their current home was built to provide housing for the miners and their families.   In the early days, they had one allotment and Dad's sole focus in the garden was supplementing the family table.  Spousal Unit describes a garden 'green with vegetables', replete with potatoes, huge onions, spring cabbage, Brussel sprouts, turnips, carrots, and mounds of beet root. (Of course, no English garden would be complete without strawberries.)  All of Dad's work in the garden was done by hand (no roto-tillers here!) as it is still done today.   During our recent visit, I had the good fortune to receive Dad's first tomato of the season - I like to tell Spousal Unit that he comes last after the grandkids and me!

The allotment (along with many others on the street) has been home for pets and animals as well.  Spousal Unit kept rabbits (Chuchyface, Blacky and Smoky) in the garden when he was a young boy.  Chuchyface ate mashed potatoes and yorkshire puddings!  When our expatriate assignment came to an end and we returned to the US, Mom and Dad cheerfully accepted the kids' two rabbits (Butterscotch and Sooty) and my guinea pig, Quiffy.  (During his time with Mom and Dad, I would say Quiffy even came ahead of the grandkids! He had an apartment in one of the sheds, and came into the house to stay in the back lobby if the winter nights were too cold.)  Number One Daughter (#1D) recalls how Quiffy learned to associate the opening of the garden gate with food, and that he would start to twitter as soon as he heard the sound. 

Currently, Dad looks after one hen for a lady who has an allotment down the street.  When we are visiting, I love going with Dad to put the hen in for the night and to check for eggs.  She always uses the same box and reliably produces one egg every other day.

A Young Samurai

Our kids also enjoyed the allotment.  If you were to notice some white specks on one of the sheds, most likely they are spit balls left over from vigorous fights between Dad and Number One Son (#1S).  #1S found some plastic tubes in the shed and hatched the idea of the spit ball fight.  Lo to anyone caught in the cross fire!!!  An orange tree planted by #1S from an orange pip still grows strong in either the shed or the greenhouse, and he also remembers digging a large hole in the garden because he could!  #1D has fond memories of pea and corn rice, accompanied by charcoal grilled sausages during barbecues. 

#1D with Nana's Squirrel

Many a day Mom and #1D would feed the farm horses carrots and apples (ultimately, Mom stopped this practice because the horses developed an appetite for her flowers just over the fence).  #1D will tell you that not all was rosy in paradise - she often had hay fever attacks during our visits ....

Over the years, Mom and Dad gained an adjoining allotment from a neighbor.  Eventually, Mom joined Dad in the garden and flowers as well as fruit trees were gradually added.  Mom's numerous bird feeders attract a wide variety of creatures.  Mom enjoys experimenting with a variety of flowers, and in true gardener fashion, divides some plants in order to augment other sections of the beds.  They both take great joy in 'pottering on', and it shows in the beauty and variety of the space. 
Ultimately, Mom and Dad added a sitting area in the garden, tucked behind one of the sheds.  From this corner of the allotment, you are far from the road, and have splendid views of the flowers, fruits and vegetables, as well as the horses in the field.  'Twitching' (watching the birds) is possible since the feeders are nearby.  You can truly imagine that you have been transported to another time and place.  So it was that some years ago, during one of our visits, the sitting area became known as 'the Riviera.'  Now, whenever we are home with Mom and Dad, going 'Down the Riviera' is one of our favorite past-times.
Abandoned blackbird nest

This blog post is dedicated to Mom and Dad and all those who apply elbow grease to make their allotments a place of harvest, beauty, serenity and family memories. 

Linking to Saturday Critters

Linking to Mosaic Monday


  1. Hello, I enjoyed reading your story about the garden and the critters. The guinea pig and rabbits are so adorable. I love the horses. Your son and daughter are cute and I love the pretty flowers. Wonderful memories of Mom and Dad. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Sunday, enjoy your day and new week ahead!

  2. How nice to have a place to work and enjoy. And it's fun to think back and the way things started. Lovely story and beautiful photos! Sweet hugs, Diane

  3. What a great thing to experience! :) Kit

  4. Oh how I loved this post Angie! As lovely and calming to me as reading a novel set in rural England, one of my favorite ways to escape.....I must have lived there in a previous life I swear. Also loved this because ,like yours, my inlaws were dear to me ... I laughed with you about getting Dad's first tomato... and at what you said to your husband... that could have been us!

  5. How wonderful that your in-laws have their allotment garden right across the street. And that they've been able to expand. It certainly looks lovely. I can imagine just how much joy it has brought to your family over the years.

  6. What a lovely post, Angie. Gardens are indeed places of solace and meditation. Your memories of family time with your in-laws make me smile. The allotment being so close is a wonderful thing. Love the "Riviera" moniker.

  7. I really enjoyed the story of Mum & Dad's allotment, so many memories to cherish from times gone by for you all. Thanks for explaining the allotment phenomena to those who might never have come across one of these stalwarts of British life before.

  8. Angie, I so enjoyed this post. My mom is a great gardener as well. Looks like you had a great time with family. I heard a story yesterday on TV about the Bramwell apple tree started from a pip. I see the word again today. Thanks for sharing and have a great day. Sylvia D.


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