Richard Gold's Allotment - 16 July 2002

A lovely, sunny afternoon in July was the date organised for a visit to Richard Gold's allotment in Cookham. Richard rents his allotment from Cookham Parish Council on the Sutton Road site. It is extremely tranquil within a stones throw of the Thames and overlooked on the other side of the river by the magnificent buildings of Cliveden, with its golden clock tower glinting in the sun.

Richard Gold and his Allotment

Richard has a very varied allotment including soft fruits such as raspberries, loganberries, strawberries and gooseberries. All the gooseberries on the allotment had been struck by a caterpillar that stripped the leaves and totally defoliated them. The caterpillars did not hurt the fruit however. As Richard said. it is now easier to see them for picking. His parsnips and carrots looked perfect one end of the row and yet he had found that there had been zero germination the other end for no apparent reason.

The denuded gooseberries

This year he had tried out shallots from seed, which looked extremely impressive. He also had two types of onions to supplement the shallots, one being the red onion with the more delicate flavour. He had also been trying out miniature lettuces and broad beans. The lettuces were similar to iceberg, and were ideal for a salad for two. The broad beans were much more tender being smaller. He also had peas and mange tout on the way. Richard's early winter cabbages had taken a battering at the hands, (or is it beaks?) of the pigeons, he had used netting to keep the birds off his second crop. He also had had a germination problem with some of his runner beans, interestingly enough the opposite end of the row from the parsnips.

Pigeon pecked cabbages, shallots grown from seed and partially germinated parsnips

Although a vegetable plot, Richard did have a long row of gladioli, which he likes to have for cutting. He was growing tomatoes both inside his greenhouse and outside, both the small cherry tomatoes and the larger varieties, all red. He said that he had tried the yellow ones last year, but found them tasteless, however he only grew yellow courgettes, but had supplemented these with some giant marrows. The greenhouse tomatoes were naturally a lot further ahead, although the same varieties were being grown outside. It was decided that although the greenhouse tomatoes tended to appear bigger and grow faster the outside ones tasted better.

Prolific yellow courgettes

This year Richard is experimenting with carrots and parsnips. He has built two high wooden troughs and planted one with carrots and the other with parsnips and is hoping to get long straight vegetables. We look forward to hearing about the result. Being raised beds they are also easier to look after. The ubiquitous bindweed was much in evidence on the allotments, with its pretty white flowers. Mr Mole also seemed to be there too. As Kenneth Graham is supposed to have based the Wind in the Willows on Cookham, this was quite appropriate.

Richard explains his carrot and parsnip experiment

As a finale Richard kindly gave everyone a selection of his enormous cabbages, cauliflowers, with the most beautiful creamy rosettes, and salad potatoes which were amazingly prolific, a variety called Rattes from France. It was then off to Richard's house for tea to round off a delightful afternoon.

Richard cuts a cauliflower for Helen