Tam O’Shanter Urban Farm

My Mum had not seen my allotment before but had heard me waffling on about it numerous times, so we decided to have a nice and peaceful day at the allotment. Mr Inker dropped us off and we walked up the lane to my plot. Before I could tell her which plot was mine she pointed to it and said “that has to be yours!”. I think it was the crocheted bunting festooned everywhere that gave it away. I set the chairs out for us and we had cups of tea and a cake I had purchased from the local bakery, all very civilised. The peace was interspersed with the twittering of birds and the odd cock-a-doodle doo from the cockerel on the farm next door. Mum mentioned that Tam O’Shanter is somewhere she had never visited. She had been to Bidston Hill when she was a girl but had never seen the cottage, this is something that we had to address, so we packed up and took a stroll next door to the delight that is Tam O’Shanter Urban Farm.

Tam O’Shanter farm started life around 300 years ago, it is believed that it was built on Bidston Hill by a heath squatter. Back then, if someone could build a dwelling and have a fire lit in the hearth within 3 days then they could live there for free. In 1837 the occupier was a chap called Richard Lee, he embellished the gable end with a stone carving of a scene from Robert Burns poem “Tam O’Shanter” thus giving the cottage its name. The scene shows Tam being chased by a witch who manages to grab his mare Maggie’s tail which she loses as they flee over the bridge.

Poor Maggie losing her tail

In 1986 building work started on returning it to a farm again (incidently, Mr Inker was one of the workforce who built the barns and fencing). It is now open every day for visitors to come and see the collection of animals that inhabit this wonderful place. It is run by volunteers and they do the most amazing work.

On the way home we walked through Flaybrick memorial gardens, which is being lovingly restored by the Friends of Flaybrick, and what a wonderful job they are doing.

Mum and I thorough recommend a trip to Tam O’Shanter farm, people of all ages will enjoy it, there are play areas for children, a cafe for a cuppa and something to eat, dogs are welcome as long as they are kept on a lead and of course all the animals, including the friendliest pig in the world.

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Grapple me grapenuts, it’s compost corner

Things were starting to come together on the plot now, the beds in the main part of the plot were now dug out. I had erected arches at the end of each of the paths with idea to grow climbing plants up them such as peas and beans, I also wanted to give munchkin pumpkins a try so I will let them clamber up one of the arches too.

Ruby checking the arches are straight

Mr Inker had put in the scaffolding planks for me, and as we had just had a delivery of woodchip I was able to finish my paths. The difference it made was unbelievable, It was starting to look like a proper allotment, it was also starting to look like I knew what I was doing!

I felt now that I could start looking at working on other parts of the plot. In the front corner was a large dilapidated compost heap that took up just too much room and I had an idea for that space, as a result I decided to relocate the compost to the back of the plot out of the way. I had acquired some pallets from the chap who had the plot over the lane from mine and also from work, so used these to create a compost bin with 2 bays so that I could turn compost from one bay to the other.

The beginnings of the new compost bays

Now it was onto the daunting task of tackling the old scrappy compost bay. It was completely overgrown with a selection of the most perennial of weeds, so yet again it was dig, dig dig.

Now bear with me here, because in my head this was going to be a flower garden. In the spirit of allotmenting, I had utilised an old zinc trough that had previously been full of rubbish, filled it with soil and had planted tulips, daffodils, crocus and ranunculus. In the middle of this space, I envisioned a patch of grass and a flower bed that undulated around it, filled with a variety of beautiful colourful flowers.

I made a friend whilst removing the old compost bay

After a good few weeks, numerous nettle stings, broken nails, countless scratches and sore muscles i finally had the bare bones of the cottage garden I wanted to create, and was able to plant some bulbs.

The cottage garden has the Ruby seal of approval

Now we are into the full throws of Spring, this little patch has really come to life, there is still tonnes to do but I am so pleased with the progress so far.

Welcome to the jungle

The idea for an allotment came from my work wife Sue, we had previously been having a discussion about growing veggies in our gardens and how limited we were with the space. Sue told me that she had put her name down for an allotment, so naturally I decided to copy her!

Thinking it would take years to get to the top of the list, I was surprised when I was approached about a year later by the Secretary of the site I had applied for, letting me know that I was top of the list. There were a couple of plots that I could choose from and decided to go with the one that had a shed on it so that I had somewhere to sit when it inevitably rained.

So in August 2018, I got the keys to plot 38b and my allotment journey began. And this is what I faced

and my first thought was……where the blimming heck do I begin?

Jan, the site secretary had kindly strimmed all of the waist high weeds down for me so I could see better what I was dealing with.

I was joined by my Fiance, Mr Inker and Ruby our Red Setter. Mr Inker set to work on the space at the side of the shed, digging this over and getting rid of the multitude of perennial weeds, whilst I started to mark out the paths that would divide the 3 large beds in front of the shed. Ruby worked extremely hard by sniffing things and snoozing in the shed (well done Ruby, couldn’t have done without you!)

And this is how it looked after the first week. Already it was looking a million times better and I couldn’t wait to continue my journey with my plot.