When my father came home from the war, in 1946 he had one extra thing to get used to…..the loss of his garden. We had moved house about 3 years earlier and, though the house was bigger than the first house, the outside space was much smaller and had only a very narrow strip of garden which was filled with a lilac tree, a bunch of flag irises, a few heather plants and small perennials. Not an edible plant in sight. At my first home there had been a long garden and Dad grew vegetables and kept a few hens. It was the house where he had been born and he had grown up there with his grandmother. I didn’t realise how much this urge to grow food was in his genes until I started to research the family history and discovered that my paternal line had been countrymen until my great grandfather moved his large family into the town and started working at the colliery in the 1880s.

The answer to Dad’s problem came when the man next door told him that a garden was coming up for sale near his. In Nottingham they had an excellent scheme for garden holders. These gardens were similar to allotments but were more private and you bought the lease on them. Each garden was surrounded by a hedge. There were about 100 of them laid out like a small estate, with a main avenue (wide enough for a lorry)  and narrower lanes opening off this. The whole estate was surrounded by high stout hedges and the avenue entered via a lockable gate.

These gardens rarely changed hands (usually due to either the death or infirmity of the owner) and you had to be “in the know” to get one, so we were extremely lucky to get one. I think Dad paid £100 for it. For that we got a plot of cultivated land, about 1/5 acre, on which there was a ramshackle shed and greenhouse, eight apple trees, two pear trees an asparagus patch  (though we never ate the asparagus, just used the fern with the bouquets of sweet peas he brought home for Mum!) and a patch of the cure -all comfrey. There was no electricity or mains water or drainage. The water for the garden came from the well and the drinking water we took from home.

He loved that garden and spent as much time as he had left over from SJAB, work and church affairs. He was always an early riser so in the summer he would go before work and water his tomatoes etc. He made the shed cosy with discarded furniture from home, a wood burning stove on which he could boil a kettle or fry his bacon and a collection of mugs for when he entertained his gardening friends.

They were a friendly group, mostly a lot older than him and it used to amuse me when I heard them call him Lad. They never seemed to be in a hurry, but all their gardens were productive and immaculately kept.

Dad grew a variety of vegetables throughout the year and kept us  and the neighbours supplied and also sold some to the greengrocer. He didn’t much care for flower growing , just chrysanthemums, dahlias, sweetpeas and various colours of Michaelmas daisies. The latter he grew specially to decorate the pulpit at Harvest Festival.

He almost tamed some of the birds who came visiting and had names for all of them, Chirpy, Cocky, Blackie & co. and all our bacon rinds were carefully chopped and fed to them!

When JW  came home with me and visited the garden, he offered to build him a new greenhouse, so the following Easter we drove a precarious load of dutch lights and timber down to the garden and he and Dad built a magnificent glasshouse, which became Dad’s pride and joy. He always said after that, that he had swapped me for a greenhouse 🙂

He kept the garden for the rest of his life and had been down to it on the day he died in1982. He had collected tomatoes and lettuces to take to his friends at the SJAB headquarters where he had gone to get his teaching schedule for the following Autumn term, so he got his wish. He always said he wanted to “die with his boots on”