Celebrating Wolverhampton History Week

This week we are delighted to be joining organisations across the city to celebrate the heritage and history of Wolverhampton. The allotments are just a step in the long history of the city, a history that we take great pride in being part of. The journey of our allotment began in the 1950s, when the green allotment space was created to serve the newly built housing estate of Warstones in the post-war building boom. Edge of city open farmland became productive plots to help ex-servicemen feed their families and settle in to their new lives. Boundary Way Allotments was born. Since then, the site has been through many evolutions and now serves “the community in new ways. A community or wilderness garden has been created as a haven for wildlife and a large polytunnel provides a shared growing space as well as a classroom for a range of learning activities”, explains Boundary Way Project Lead, Moya Lloyd in our 2018 Brochure. The Boundary Way Allotments has stood in the same spot for over 60 years and continues to enrich the lives and wellbeing of those who are lucky enough to be a part of its story, we wonder what it will be like after 60 more years – what do you think?

Boundary Way in 1950

Boundary Way in 1950

In our aforementioned brochure, plot holder Howard Berry looks into the natural heritage of the allotments and explains the site’s unique setting and how it came to be so:

Edges, borders and boundaries are very much the basis of the story of this area. Over 80,000 years ago the vast icefield which had spread south and east from the mountainous uplands came to a halt just to the north of our site- the Bridgnorth-Smestow line. The melting and retreating ice left behind lakes and rivers of glacial deposits- a stony clayey basin. Large erratic boulders were left in the area. These are often speckled grey and cream quite different from the soft red of the local bedrock. Some come from the Lake District- Eskdale granite, some from North Wales Area.. The Anglo-Saxons called them “hoarstones”. The boulders were an inconvenience to the clearing of cultivated land and were heaved to the edges and incorporated into boundaries, the bigger ones can still be seen at the sides of roads and at junctions, their permanence making them fixed markers. Hoarstone (think of the paleness of “hoar” frost) became corrupted into Warstone. Look out for them, once you get your eye in, you’ll find more and more.

Some of our local warstones have been removed to the rock garden in the centre of the nearby Merry Hill traffic island. This unavoidable association with boundaries, edges and changes has created the distinctive character of the Boundary Way Allotments; town abruptly meets countryside and there is a very fertile (if edgy) relationship. Edges, hedges, water margins and other meeting places are often the most productive, providing a greater range of opportunities (and in the case of badgers, challenges) for their inhabitants human and otherwise. We cherish this ambiguity and enjoy the gifts it brings us as well as the challenges it sets.

Alongside Howard, many of the plot holders and members of the local community shared memories with allotment historian Twigs Way in 2018 to help us to uncover the story of the allotment. The result was a tremendous text by Twigs Way covering both the general history of allotments and why they came to be, alongside specific histories surrounding Boundary Way. Here is an short excerpt from her writings, which you can read in full in the brochure here:

“There had already been an allotment site in the Penn Fields area, which during the war had been the focus of action by what was then known as the Lower Penn Food Production Guild, established on the outbreak of war in 1939 as a ‘short-term measure’. The Chairman of the Guild was another farmer called Ted Icke, whose son eventually took over from him. All allotment holders on the Boundary Way allotments also became members of the Guild, and the same still applies despite a name change to the Penn and District Gardening Society. Through the war the Lower Penn Food Production Guild held shows for vegetables and flowers, as well as poultry and rabbits, a common and patriotic activity during the war years. However unlike many such societies the Guild did not fade away after the war but took on new members as the Boundary Way allotments opened.

Bob Morris, a long time plot holder, recalls the opening day of the Boundary Way allotments when the traditional drawing of lots was carried out to see who would get a plot as demand exceeded supply. Bob was newly de-mobbed from the RAF and had moved to the Warstones estate along with other ex-servicemen. The plot was to be a lifetime hobby as well as a way of saving money in times of hardship, and Bob maintained the plot until he moved away from the area aged ninety! Also amongst the allotment holders that remember the original farm was Derek Thom. Born in 1948 and interviewed in 2017 as part of the Boundary Way project, Derek remembers the Reade family and the early days of the estate and allotments. His father took on three allotments at one time, but reduced it to two and then one, which Derek ‘inherited’ in the 1970s” – Twigs Way

We were delighted when former long-term plot holder Derek Thom, mentioned above, shared his family’s archive of images of the allotment site and his family at the site in the 1950s. The photographs you see scattered through this blog post are from Derek Thom’s collection and give a unique insight into the allotment’s beginnings. From the 1950s to the present day the allotment has had its ups and downs, popularity has risen, fallen and risen once more. Now as we sit in 2021, in the midst of a continuing pandemic, the site has taken on perhaps a larger importance in people’s lives than ever before. The allotment sees long waiting lists, a buzz of families and community groups making plans for their return. However, most of all Boundary Way remains a place where people enjoy a stronger connection with nature and a sense of togetherness. Here’s a final excerpt from Twigs Way’s text that reflects the importance of the site in 2018 and feels as relevant now as it did then:

“In the last two decades there is a greater diversity of plotholders with many more women taking up plots and a range of different ethnic backgrounds who bring different crops. Callaloo, a West Indian speciality, is grown on the site a few hundred yards from the community garden planted with traditional English bluebells. People of all walks of life come here to de-stress, to revel in nature, and to find the independence and freedom to grow their own food that marked the original struggles of the allotment movement back in the eighteenth century.

In 2017 plotholders described the site as ‘magic’, ‘heaven’, ‘full of wildlife and nature’. Free from the taint of poverty and war associated with some older allotments sites, the Boundary Way Allotments still reflect the forward looking community atmosphere of the period in which they were established. A decade which was marked by Royal Coronation parties, the end of rationing and the Festival of Britain, as well as the birth of the baby boomers – many of whom now work the Boundary Way plots or help in the Community Garden. With the addition of the organic Community Gardens to the north of the site in the 1990s, and the involvement of the Highfields School and other community groups, a new generation of gardeners can share in the atmosphere of this historic and ‘magic place’” – Twigs Way

 

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