Keen horticulturalist Les Gerrard swapped carpets for carrots when he retired after 35 years as a carpet cleaner and was in the first phase of applicants allocated an allotment on Douglas Borough Council’s site on Johnny Watterson’s Lane.
Manx-born Mr Gerrard, who lives in Woodlands Close, now spends a good deal of his time at his allotment tending to his broad beans, courgettes, cabbages, peas, potatoes…and carrots. ‘I was brought up on a farm and had always wanted to grow my own vegetables, but never really had the space in my own garden, so when the Council’s allotments became available I saw that as a great opportunity. For growing, last year was a wash-out, but this year has been fantastic and almost every other day this summer I’ve been up at my allotment, as there’s so much to be picked then taken home for freezing.’
Mr Gerrard, who represents the allotment holders at the regeneration and community advisory committee, which deals with allotments, continued: ‘The allotments were a much needed amenity in Douglas. The Council has been very supportive and Graham Newsome, the assistant head of parks, is always extremely helpful. There’s quite a sense of community that has developed up there, we all try to all help one another and as well being able to enjoy home-grown vegetables, fruit and flowers there are some wonderful views to be had.’
Chair of the regeneration and community advisory committee Councillor Stephen Pitts said: ‘I am pleased that Mr Gerrard is taking every advantage to enjoy his allotment. Demand for plots was extremely encouraging from day one. The scheme is now complete with 76 plots – 36 full-size and 40 half-size – and reflects the revival in the “grow your own” movement and a move towards simpler, healthier living.
‘Additionally tenants are automatically entered into the Best Allotment category in the Council’s annual Douglas in Bloom competition, so I wish Mr Gerrard and his fellow horticulturalists good luck with the competition, their crops…and the weather.’
Council leader Councillor David Christian added: ‘Recently I took the opportunity to visit the allotments and was extremely impressed by how well the land was being used. Mr Gerrard was right when he referred to the sense of community that exists there. I was able to speak to a good number of people, many of whom had invested much time, effort and money in developing their plots and, judging by the magnificent show of home-grown produce, their investment has clearly paid off.
‘The success of the allotments scheme is also down to the hard work and commitment shown by many from the Council’s workforce, not least our parks team who have done so much to support our allotment holders at the same time as creating award-winning green spaces in the town.’