The eviction from their original Manor Gardens allotments within the Olympic Park development, then displacement to the newly constructed ‘temporary’ site at Marsh Lane Fields in Leyton was a nightmare.
During storage and transportation to the new site some personal gardening equipment was stolen or broken. Collections of seed packets were left out in the rain to sprout. All the trees brought along died because they were wrapped bare-rooted by contractors in black bin bags then left for weeks to cook in the sun.
“…the first allotments constructed from scratch in fifty years became a quagmire in the November rains. The ground was too wet to cultivate on a third of the plots until May 08 and remained too wet throughout the season on half.
Traumatised plot holders who had lost their life’s work when they were thrown off their compulsorily purchased plots despaired. For those kept sane and integrated into the wider community through their allotments, the fragile balance tipped. By this stage a third of the original members had given up, had invested their energies elsewhere or were sitting at home, too depressed to do anything.” Julie Sumner, April 2008
“There’s no comparison – it was paradise at the old place, this is like gardening in the middle of a swamp”, Reg Hawkins.
After sustained complaints from plotholders a consultant’s report recommended the soil be raked and dragged by a 60cm blade at some depth to break up any compacted soil.
The waterlogging continued on a smaller area through the next winter and spring. The London Development Agency were eventually advised to lay drains. This largely solved the problem but by this time more plotholders had given up.
The ownership of Manor Gardens was accepted as remaining within the gift of Major Villiers even after his death in 1967. In his absence and with changes to forms of popular leisure activities Eton Manor Sports Ground fell into disuse while the allotment site was not so well tended. It is a tragedy that as the relevance of taking time to enjoy growing your own food was becoming more popular again the spectacular demands of the global Olympic industry should come to overwhelm these plotholders access to such benevolent entitlement at their former site.