Martin Reed’s Story

Here at the Addiscombe, Woodside & Shirley Leisure Gardens we have a proud tradition of plots being passed down the generations. Families such as these know the benefit of tending to the same piece of ground that your father and his father did before them. They know their soil. They understand the premise that we only look after our allotments temporarily, keeping them in good order, in trust, to eventually pass them on to the next person.

Plot 239 is currently being tended by Martin Read and has had a Mr Read renting it since the early years of the 1920s, it has never known anything else. Martin’s grandfather first took it on along with the two adjoining plots a few years after 1921. There were a few plots in use when he arrived from an allotment in Dartnell Road so he was no novice. By all accounts he was an enterprising chap because he grew chrysanthemums on all three plots and had an arrangement with a local shop to take his produce. He had five children and for many years his four sons all had plots on the site.

Martin’s grandfather was a chimney sweep by trade which ensured a plentiful supply of soot which was used in large quantities for slug control. No slug pellets would have been available in those days. Martin can remember moving many piles of soot. This would of course have been delivered to the allotments by horse and cart. Traditionally soot would have been spread on the ground where you planned to plant your potato crop, you let it overwinter then dug it in, planted your suds and looked forward to a slug free crop.

At one point, Martin, his father and grandfather were all tending the plot together. Martin’s grandfather died when Martin was 12, the plot was taken over by Martin's father who grew only vegetables with rhubarb at one end, just as it remains today. The only break Martin’s father had from plot 239 was an enforced one when he served in the Second World War and was stationed mostly in Africa. This was a period of his life that he hated, he would have much rather have been growing and looking after his vegetables. He died in 2008. Martin continues today. He grows, in the main, runner beans which are his favourite vegetable and chrysanthemums, naturally.