What a wonderful day! As hopefully many of my followers will be aware, on Sunday I had the pleasure to join other volunteers at BBC Countryfile Live representing The National Allotment Society.
Perfect timing I thought just before National Allotment Week, which is running now.
Volunteering for the Allotment Society was an opportunity I saw advertised and I couldn’t resist offering my help for a number of reasons. Firstly I wanted to find out more about the Society and what they offer in terms of the membership; secondly, I love the opportunity and a platform to share my story and passion for allotments and grow your own. Alongside trying to pass on my enthusiasm and encourage others to give it a go.
Lastly, who can resist the opportunity to get a good look around the whole event itself.
The day started bright and early to avoid the thousands of people arriving for the opening. I was in the car park by 7:45, got myself accredited then headed into the event to find the National Allotment Society stand before the crowds covered every inch of grass.
The stand was the other side of the event to entrance, about a 15 minute walk but perfectly located next to the Main Arena and viewing tower.
I met Mike, who works for the National Allotment Society and we chatted about the previous days of the event, how they had gone and his experiences.
More volunteers arrived a few minutes later including Row; Row is a wonderful lady who I met online a while ago and very kindly sent me some Poached Egg flower seeds. I wasn’t expecting to meet her at the event so when I recognised her face and introduced myself it was a lovely surprise.
Straight away she gave me a big hug and we went off to buy teas and breakfast to get us awake and raring to go. A birthday treat she said, how wonderful!
I had the morning free to look around the event before returning to the stand at midday to get to work and have some fun talking to lots of visitors. The first thing I did was head to the viewing tower to take in the view of the full event, well as much as I could get into one camera shot before the gates opened to the public.
I then started my attempt at taking in the event, I only had a few hours and will say now, to see everything you need at least a whole day. I think I only saw about half of the event and didn’t take part in any of the activities on the lake or the talks.
For me there was a lot of clothes and food stalls, but not enough gardening related stalls for my liking. I don’t think it helped that the few gardening stalls there was were located at the other end of the event to the exit which meant many buyers wouldn’t want to carry plants back to the car. I spoke to these few exhibitors and seemed to get the same message, hopefully this will change next year and they will give it another go.
I particularly loved Adam’s Farm, where there was pigs, sheep, chicks, hens, cows and goats to name a few. There was lots of opportunities for little ones to get hands-on which was great to see too.
Other stands that really caught my attention or did well to grab mine were The British Beekeepers Association, master composters Robert and Yvonne from The Oxford Garden Project, Butterfly Conservation and WWT – Flight of the Swans. All which I highly recommended you check out for different reasons.
I have recently gained an interest in the idea of bee keeping so the BBKA stand was of great appeal to me. To ask more questions and see the bees in action; I also made a donation to make my own candle out of beeswax to bring home. It think it was meant to be for children but I loved it!
I will also highlight Robert and Yvonne Longstaff, who I originally met at Blenheim Flower Show when Robert did a talk as a Master Composter all about composting, took lots of questions and gave tons of great advice. It was great to bump into them again here so I could introduce myself properly and have a good chat. Thank you for my Nasturtium seeds!
After lots of great and educating conversations I headed back to the stand and started work, getting as many visitors involved in the activities we had taking place and sharing my allotment journey so far.
Activites and competitions involved matching plants to the right produce to enter a draw to win a annual subscription to the Allotment and Leisure Gardener Magazine and guessing the number of beans in the jar to win a years membership to The National Allotment Society.
My favourite activity though which went down fantastically with the young ones and myself was the Cress Caterpillar making, with egg cups, colouring, googly eyes, compost and most importantly cress seeds.
I met so many wonderful people, both volunteers and visitors who were happy to share their allotment stories and plenty of great advice. Thank you very much NSALG for the opportunity!
I think this is the longest blog I have ever done, so sorry if I have waffled, I will wrap up and stop now.
I will finish by saying I definitely recommend you visit the event next year, 3- 6th August at Blenheim Palace.
Obvious and helpful tips:
– Arrive early, don’t aim to get there for when the event opens, aim for when the car park opens.
– Take lots of water and sunscreen
– For soft drinks – go to Jo’s Kitchen if they are there next year – half the price of every other stand!
– Leave early – not when thousands of other visitors are trying to leave at 5pm when the event shuts then complain it took two hours to get out of the venue. Sorry but what do you expect when there is this amount of cars trying to get out of two exits on to main roads with the event team and police doing everything they can.
Sorry if some of these sound obvious but I know many didn’t do the above then complained heavily.
A big shout out and thank you to Blenheim Palace for putting on a great event in it’s first year and taking a lot of flack and complaints from angry visitors when you did everything you can. I even saw one lady shouting right up in the face of a female car park warden, I wanted to get out of my car and stick up for her.
That’s it now I promise, did anyone else go the BBC Countryfile Live? What did you think?
Before my next blog, is anyone doing anything special to celebrate National Allotment Week?
Speak soon & Happy Plotting x