The Open Day at the Hertford Avenue Allotment was a resounding success!


Hertford Avenue Allotment Open Day

Walking to the Hertford Avenue Allotment Open Day

Eager to see what’s going on

We trundled down to the Open Day around 1pm, expecting there to be a bevvy of burgers and cakes for us to chose from.

East Sheen Allotment BBQ man

Keith the BBQ man

No such luck the place was packed and most of the foods had been consumed, however we did manage to scoop up two sausage buns and chicken.  The latter had been sourced locally and marinated in a spicy chilli which was most yummy.

rice salad with chive flower heads

rice salad with chive flower heads

Two salads had been laid on, one very interesting with chive flower heads to decorate and eat, I bravely popped one in to my chicken burger and must say it was very delicious and has become a firm favorite for future Summer salads.  All four meals came to £8, a snip for Sunday lunch.


All cakes gone ;-(



My two children pounced on the last two cakes left, so mummy had to just smile and sup on a nice refreshing glass of water, until everyone was ready to explore through the allotment.

Money raised from the various sales which included raffle tickets, sales of plants and food, went towards general maintenance of the allotment.

At times they have had to prune trees back due to too much shadow and then insert drainage due to too much water logging.   The trading shed has also had to have money spent on it, due to vandals damaging the roof upon trying to break in.

The Trading Shed

The Trading Shed

On the matter of the ‘Trading Shed’, if you have a nice patch at home that you grow things in, you might be interested to know that if you join the Barnes, Mortlake & Sheen Horticultural Allotment Society which is very cheap,you can get heavily discounted seeds from the shed, without having to have an allotment,  details of which can easily be found on facebook here.

A story to tell

I met a very charming gardener called Keith, who also happened to be the BBQ man.

He has had his allotment for approximately 5 years.  Keith is heavily in to re-cycling and up-cycling all and any materials he can find and told me the ‘cycle’ of his allotment which tickled me pink.

As you will see, at the back of his patch the tops of the bamboo poles to support various plants have champagne corks on, ‘a time in his life before children, social life abundant and champagne a plenty’, we also moved on to a golf ball as a topper, presumably ‘a time ‘before children’ when golfing could be easily fitted in’.

We move then on to CD’s to scare away the birds, which is a great idea, ‘a time ‘before and with children.”

Moving on swiftly to the stoppers being very colourful plastic baby food lids, ‘a time ‘now with children’.’

Ending up with a lovely bit of re-cycling, using a babygate on the seedling shed, then a proud display of a small floral garden made by his now 4 1/2 yr old daughter, a baby also soon on the way, so now doubt another small bit of ‘lifes history’ will be added at some stage.

082We all took a walk down the allotment, from one end to the other as you can see it is quite vast, the picture only depicts a portion of the space used.

I noticed many things on my walk, one being that there were many areas of small tables and chairs set up, some by the river, some under pergolas and it was obvious that great friendships had been struck between allotment owners as they sat chatting and drinking a bevvy.

117There were also families, I could hear children by their own small little plots discussing the various things they had planted which was just wonderful to witness.

Below I am highlighting in a gallery some of the flower shots I took, one of my favorite things to capture as you might guess.  

If you click on the photo twice, it will bring up an enlarged version, there will also be an arrow which will allow you to scroll through the whole gallery to see the floral display in it’s full glory. 



Scarecrows were found everywhere, of which I took some photos.
There was a competition to make the scariest one, I do not know who won, which one do you think the scariest or best and why?


Different plots reflected the character of their owners too, some I found very ‘arty‘, some very ‘minimalist and functional’, some very ‘socially  orientated‘, some had birds, some ponds, it was very varied and interesting to view.

I finished off the day a little sunburnt but happy to have been given the chance to peruse this green space saved for hard working green fingers.

If you wish to apply for an allotment you apply through the Council, there is a waiting list.  Apply here.

If not and you just wish to enjoy the facilities when they are open, the next ‘Open Day’ will be in September so watch this space 🙂

Thank you as always for reading/viewing.

Justine x

© Justine @

Bug hotels, community & a cuppa!


It had been a slightly dreary morning in East Sheen, a sky with grey pallor struggled to allow the suns rays through the dull thick clouds, where was the sun hiding? The answer would become obvious later.

Illana of Purple Carrot 7R's

Illana of Purple Carrot 7R’s

Illana, a friend of mine, we share the same school for our children asked me to cover an event. She is the owner of Purple Carrot 7R’s, a local up-cycling business which resides within Castelnau Community Centre in which the affair was going to take place. I happily agreed. Castelnau was easy to find and I arrived just after lunch

Castlenau Community Centre

Castlenau Community Centre

It became apparent that this was where the sun had been shining, smiling upon the small gem of a community who frequent the much loved Castelnau Community Centre tucked in the heart of Barnes. The ‘event’ was that Ebay, organised through Groundwork  had donated a day of service from 5 members of their staff to do various much needed jobs for the Community Centre. This involved the following:  soil cultivation, planting of various bulbs, remodelling the bug hotel (yet to be named), sealing the benches and building an indoor mobile skate ramp. So let me dig (excuse the pun), a little deeper, explaining a bit more about all parties involved so that you might attach your heartstrings to such a well deserving and far reaching project.

A little bit about the Company Groundwork



Their motto is changing places, changing lives – one green step at a time.   Groundwork work across the UK helping communities to find practical solutions to the various challenges faced.  Areas covered and provided for are in reducing energy and waste, re-connecting people with nature, providing training and creating jobs.

Groundwork & Ebay staff hard at work soil cultivating

Groundwork & Ebay staff hard at work soil cultivating

One of the key areas where Groundwork helps is to preserve, protect and improve local green areas, be they parks, playgrounds, allotments or nature reserves amongst other things. The idea behind this is to empower local residents, bringing them together in a united area of interest, giving them the practical boost to get things going. This help streams in to many different areas, in this instance creating more play opportunities in the form of an indoor skate park, this service available to non residents as well as residents.  This in turn helps out parents who need to find somewhere safe and healthy for their children to play.

Fruit will be abundant giving a source of healthy nutrition

Fruit will be abundant giving a source of healthy nutrition

There are allotments that provide a source of nutrition and mobility in keeping people active, outdoors. It also unites, bringing people together, giving a sense of pride in local produce grown. It allows those from young to old to learn and participate in toiling the land, growing something beautiful which also contributes to creating a healthy lifestyle. In this particular instance Groundwork helped to find funding in the form of arranging ‘actual’ labour donated by ebay.

Next we move on to Ebay

Ebay volunteer starting work on the much wanted skate ramp!

Ebay volunteer starting work on the much wanted skate ramp!

Ebay has provided a platform for every householder to re-cycle and hopefully make a profit by having the ability to sell used items. It has also enabled people to start up businesses in selling independent items, be they craft items made by the seller or bought in as stock. This has opened up opportunities in itself to people that might not have found this possible before. The staff members working on this project volunteered, having no particular skill-set in the jobs they were assigned, but took joy in the fact they were in the here and now, on site, making a difference to other’s lives.

Last but not least Castelnau Community Centre

The local area comprises of over 800 households which sit in a pocket of social housing and financial strain surrounded by affluence and privately owned homes. The Castelnau Community Centre houses the Castelnau Centre Project (CPP) which is a small charity responsible for developing resources for the whole community. The Charity utilises the Community Centre as a base not only to reach out and provide support to their local residents but also provide and encourage non residents to use the facilities as well, hoping to bring a diversity of people, new opportunities and social unions including friendships to the local community. The centre provides a mind boggling array of services a few being:

  1. A food bank
  2. Sunshine Nursery
  3. Citizens Advice
  4. Community Choir
  5. Venue Hire
  6. Birthday Barter Scheme
  7. Well stocked cafe with free Wifi and toddler play
  8. Infant & Junior Kids Club
  9. Homework Club
  10. Youth Club
  11. Community Goldies Exercise
  12. Zumba Gold
  13. Goldies Lunch
  14. Pilates
  15. Threatre Group
  16. Back to work group
  17. Purple Carrot Furniture Up-Cycling Project
  18. Career Advice

The Community Centre relies on funding.  

There has been some funding from the Barnes Workhouse Fund and Richmond Housing Partnership, plus a lottery funding for 8 years which runs out in 2015.  After this period, financial resources will be scarce and they look towards Local Corporate Funding as a hopeful source in providing the necessary income to keep them going. Local Corporate Funding has many advantages to the Companies by touching the local community with its aid in a physical sense rather than just a visual advert;  help is put in to place and becomes tangible link between the community and company. This in turn helps residents and others to have a better environment in which to learn, find jobs and live a healthier life, giving them an awareness of the world around them in understanding sustainability and eco awareness, which can only have a beneficial knock on effect with the initial Local Corporate Funding stretching far and wide over time.

The Visit

My welcome to the Community Centre was nothing short of warm and I immediately felt at home. I passed a group of parked wellies from well worked volunteers taking a much needed break, but there were smiles all around upon my entry as I was introduced as the ‘blogger’ with name, I might add!

Illana showed me around, whilst a local resident made me a fine brew from the cafe. The hall is splendid, a place my son would love to come to and have a run around.

Matt from Ebay with no carpenty experience, bravely takes on making the skate ramp with the help of local resident.

Matt from Ebay with no carpenty experience, bravely takes on making the skate ramp with the help of local resident.

The skate ramp was still in the very early stages of being built.  The volunteer making it having no carpentry experience whatsoever, but this did not deter him from his enthusiasm in getting the job done with precision and a smile.  He was overseen by one of the local residents as you can see above. The outside space was quite large with a mixture of allotments in varying states of cultivation or disarray.  The volunteers started at one end sensibly moving to the other end, weeding and turning over the soil ready for them to plant tulips and crocuses.

Amongst some frivolous dancing in wellies I had the privilege of seeing the ‘bug hotel’ carefully dismantled and re-built, its splendour rivalling the Dorchester Hotel.  Various names were suggested, “Bug B&B, Bug Chateux Catelnau to many other variations.  I wait in anticipation to see if a final name was chosen after I had to make my departure.

Laughter & work

Laughter & work

Gleaming ready for action

Gleaming ready for action

The ‘Bug Hotel’ was a learning curve for me, having many levels.  The gardener from Groundwork informed me the straw layer was for bumblebees, bark chips for centipedes and millipedes.  They also drilled holes in lengths of wood for leaf cutter bees to hibernate, so I learnt a thing or two.

Final Thoughts

Overall the atmosphere was jovial and energetic.  I went away wishing that everyone could have the opportunity to have such a Centre within local reach. It is obvious that the residents as a collective are very close and support each other in a way that is infectious to all that meet them. I can only hope that more Local Corporate Funding reaches the Castelnau Community Centre and other well deserving projects because a little goes a long way when a little bit of good will is thrown in.

©2014 All Rights Reserved

My first proper walk in 2014 in East Sheen

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My First Proper Walk of the Year 2014 – East Sheen – Jan

Yes, I have to confess due to various reasons and reasonable ones, today I took my first proper walk of 2014, it was of course in East Sheen being my home place and it would only be honorary to take my first steps here, in the vicinity of Palewell Common.

I’ve been sheltering indoors hiding from the rain, the thought of coming home with sodden feet and dripping layers too much.  I must be a fair weather walker, not entirely but it’s all a state of mind and that is where mine has been of late.

But this morning the sun was shining like a bright spring day, its rays luring me with beckoning fingers to go bask in its gloriousness. I got reeled in and took the bait, donned my new trainers, scarf, gillet and fingerless mitts, not forgetting of course Iphone with entrusted selection of appropriate music and sunnies.

I will say, I overdressed, scarf came off by the end of the walk as did gloves and yes a horrible dribble of sweat ensued down my back taunting me the silent words of “Miss sweaty might become Miss stinky now”

It was bliss to walk past the budding magnolia trees.  This tree became an obsession of mine last year, determined to get one in my front garden.  There is one down the street where I live which literally makes me stop walking every time, once in full bloom, just to take in its radiant pinks and silken looking petals.

A little further Palewell Common was looking rather like a mud quagmire but did this stop the dog walkers?  Indeed not, they were out in full force, I would say  more professional walkers than otherwise judging by the amount of dogs per person, unless East Sheen has taken to owning 7 dogs per household.  I shudder to think of the smells and chaos that would create, I have two and that is certainly enough to make a pungent house of doggy smells.

I had to smile seeing a small gathering of nursery children out on the grass, the activity seemingly being to run from one adult to another, I did rather question how long they would stay upright running on such wet mud strewn ground.  I expect lots of dirty knees and if not faces would have been had by the end of it had I not moved on.  It doesn’t really pay in this day and age to stand and watch children, much as a joy it is, it can gather you odd looks if you are on your own.

The allotments seemed uncharacteristically quiet; I enjoy seeing how these develop over the weeks so many visual treats to come.

Last year I started to forage, yes forage.  You might raise your eyebrows and think alright, time to stop reading now; this is a very nerdy woman.  But I will have you know that this hobby is becoming increasingly popular, so much so there are organised walks for people to learn about foraging and books in numerous quantities on the subject.

Apart from this there is a wealth of You Tube clips on what to do with these wondrous berries, leaves etc that one has spent hours picking, leaping to get, scratching oneself to bits to acquire.  Suffice to say, I probably had one success in about 10 attempts of trying to make jellies, jams, pickles and chutneys.  Will I give it another go this year, probably, yes, but I have enough experience to know what I definitely won’t try again.  Will I tell you what that is?  Hell, no (grins), that’s part of the fun to find out for yourself!

More on foraging another time.  Do I hear a yay?

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