On the northern fringes of Nansledan lies a three-acre plot of land which is undergoing a quiet transformation thanks to a small army of dedicated allotment gardeners.
The Fairpark allotments have been in the Duchy of Cornwall’s ownership for decades but in recent years many of the plots had become dormant or vacant.
Now, following a drive by the Duchy to encourage plot holders to spruce up their areas or give up dormant plots to other gardeners willing to take them on, the allotments are enjoying something of a renaissance.
Lesley and Leslie Watts from nearby St Columb Minor have had an allotment at Fairpark for 30 years and tend it at least once a day, fitting in around their full-time jobs at nearby filter manufacturers Pall.
Their double plot produces more fruit and vegetables than they can eat in a year and like many growers at Fairpark they are happy to share and swap produce with neighbours.
Lesley said: “Having an allotment has become more popular over the last few years and it’s good see so many of the old plots taking on a new lease of life.
“We come up every day and don’t have to buy any fruit or veg because we grow all our own.”
Visiting their plot with its sheds and polytunnel, it is easy to see why. Vegetables include chillies, tomatoes, French beans, new potatoes, parsnip, turnip, swede, chard, spinach, sweetcorn, asparagus, onions, shallots. And fruit is in abundance. Red currants, blackcurrants, peaches, pears, raspberries, cherries, apricots and strawberries.
As well as fresh daily produce for the table, much of what they grow finds its way into an array of jams, chutneys and preserves, and even wine. Fresh eggs come from a small brood of hens and there is honey from a hive.
“People underestimated how much work is involved but it’s very rewarding,” said Lesley. “We also try and encourage wildlife on site so we have bee-friendly plants and a pond with newts. We net most of the fruit but leave some out for wildlife to eat. We just love it up here and have many happy memories from when the kids were small.”
One hundred yards away postman David Eason is tending his two half-plots. A newcomer to Fairpark, he recently moved back to Newquay from St Austell and previously had a smallholding of his own.
“I’m looking to plant spuds, beans and salads in the main,” said David, surveying a patch of scrub that has seen better days.
“Our kids love it here and to have a bit of working land is really good for them. Although they do more of the eating than anything else.”
Another relative newcomer is John Williams, an area manager for St Austell Brewery and the first resident of Nansledan, who moved in with his wife, daughter and three foster children in July last year.
John’s family originally settled in Cornwall in 1982. He moved away with work and relocated back to Cornwall three years ago from Northamptonshire to start his new job.
“I knew Nansledan would have allotments and that was always an appeal for me as I used to have one for 11 years,” said John.
“There’s a great sense of community here and a lot of what I call natural gardeners who take a more traditional approach, and we all learn from each other.
“For me there’s nothing better than growing something and having it on your plate that day. If you dig up some spuds at four o’clock, and they’re on your plate by five, you cannot get a better taste.”
John has also seen the benefits of an allotment for his own health, and his children: “I find it a real stress reliever and my blood pressure has gone right down. The children also really love it. They all have their own rows of potatoes. It’s very peaceful.”
John is now working with others in the community as part of the Fairpark Allotment Community Group and organises regular meetings. They have their own Facebook page where members can post queries and tips, and are hoping to organise more communal activities and food swaps between growers.
The Duchy’s Katherine Dawe-Lane, who manages the Fairpark Allotments, has done much to encourage the renewed interest and enthusiasm in the dormant plots and is delighted at the uptake so far.
“There has been a terrific response over the last two years and especially in the last 12 months,” said Katherine.
“People have been queuing up for plots as they become available and it’s great to see the newcomers welcomed into the family by the more established growers and being given tips and advice. We’ve also got a lot more families and they all muck in together.”
Fairpark is among several community allotments that will become part of Nansledan as the development grows in the coming years. Encouraging local food production is part of the Duchy’s sustainability philosophy for Nansledan and working with the Tretherras Allotment Association has already seen a former Duchy-owned pony paddock transformed into community allotments on the western edge of the development and a community orchard next door.
There are also plans for a new park called Park an Chapel on land between Nansledan and Quintrell Downs. This will include another community orchard, allotment gardens, recreation space, a network of pedestrian and cycle paths and grazing land.
“Allotment gardening and green space are important to what the Duchy is trying to achieve at Nansledan,” said Katherine. “We are already developing 30 more plots at Quintrell Downs and there will be hundreds in total.”
One of the longest serving growers at Fairpark is Wally Tippett, who has had an allotment for over 40 years and is more than happy to offer advice to fellow plot holders.
“I like it here. I come up every day early, at quarter to five or quarter to six in the morning, and I go home at eight and have my breakfast. I was helping a lady with her strimmer the other day.”
Wally points to an immaculately erected fence of carrot fly netting: “Carrot fly can only jump two feet off the ground. That netting’s a metre. That’ll stop them.”