I’ve always wanted an allotment. Here in Edinburgh there are long waiting lists for the local authority allotments – people say you should put your children’s names down on the waiting list when they are born and there might be a chance that their grandchildren will get to the top. Well I’ve been on the waiting list for four years now and nothing so far. As well as the council allotments there are some even more exclusive ones, including the Dean Allotments. These are privately owned and I’ve yet to find out how you even get on to their waiting list. But they are in a special place – in the grounds of the Modern Art Gallery. I’ve often looked over the wall at the little plots, envious but impressed:
But today I was allowed through the gate and into the plots. Today was ‘Doors Open Day‘ in Edinburgh. Doors Open Day allows you to visit lots of historic buildings and places that are normally closed to the public. I’ve seen inside many interesting buildings over the years but this year it was the Dean Allotments that caught my eye. The allotments were once the kitchen gardens for an orphanage built in the 1830s. The gardens stopped being used when the orphanage closed but were turned into allotments the 1980s. The art gallery took over the building in the 1990s and I discovered today that the allotments were doomed to become a car park when the art gallery moved in. They were rescued by some feisty allotmenteers, with the help of artists Eduardo Paolozzi and Ian Hamilton Findlay, whose art works can be found on the allotment ‘shed’. Making the allotments into an artwork made it much more difficult to bulldoze them for a car park. They certainly seem like art to me:
Allotments with the old orphanage in the background. And a gnarled old apple tree, possibly dating back to orphanage days:
I was delighted to get this close up view of the allotments. But I was also pleased when I came home to my own garden and looked at my raised beds, still full of autumn vegetables, and in no danger of being turned into car parks, so long as I’m in charge.