RAF Marham Allotments

Over the last 12 months, many small projects have come to ‘fruition’ at the RAF Marham Community Allotment; not least the re-naming of The Association, re-homing of hedgehogs and the removal of years of organic waste that had accumulated behind the shed.

The reluctance to allow surplus pumpkin plants to go to waste this summer, also generated an extremely successful fund-raising event later in the year.

The allotment membership has seen significant churn this year with families and personnel moving in and out due to the retirement of Tornado and the arrival of 617 and 207 Sqn. This has in turn generated fresh ideas and a new proactive outlook from families involved in the allotment. Most military based community projects naturally attract interest, and a significant amount of hard work from those who stay behind and keep the home fires burning. The RAF Marham Community Allotment is no different in that respect.

Wastage is clearly not encouraged at the allotment and dissimilar to other areas of society, its members do not take for granted that which they themselves did not earn or buy. Allotment facilities and equipment are minimal, so it is widely appreciated that once broken or used up, they are not easily replaced. Surplus plants and other upcycled items are routinely advertised on the Facebook site which is the primary means of communication within The Association. It was during the summer period when Mrs. Corbett first approached the OIC and asked for permission to utilise a spare plot to grow surplus pumpkin plants. Assistance was required to turn the compact ground of a plot which is circa 10M across and 20M long. Work started in earnest and very soon there was sufficient space free from weeds, ready to be cultivated. Early in the summer, old fencing and wooden pallets were upcycled strategically to allow the plants to climb. The quality of the soil was underestimated, and no-one could have predicted the sheer quantity of such lovely pumpkins, squashes and gourds. So much was grown that again, discussions were had as what could be done with all the surplus produce. This is where the idea of a RAF Marham Pumpkin Picking event was born.
The author of this article feels it is noteworthy to mention that the subject of pumpkin classification generated discussion whilst writing this piece.

Are pumpkins a fruit or a vegetable? What is the difference between the two?

From a botanist‘s perspective, a pumpkin is a fruit because it is a product of the seed-bearing structure of flowering plants. Vegetables, on the other hand, are the edible portion of plants such as leaves, stems, roots, bullbs, flowers, and tubers. Because pumpkins are less sweet than a traditional fruit and more savoury, from a culinary perspective they tend to be erroneously categorised as a vegetable.

As the pumpkin patch grew and grew, some of the larger gourds and pumpkins were slung in tights (yes you heard it here – tights) and various bits of old clothing whilst; quite specifically, Cucurbita Maxima, were allowed to establish themselves on pallets and upcycled breadbaskets. This was to ensure the plants didn’t break under the weight of the fruit. In keeping with the, spirit of avoiding waste, the question was again posed to the OIC if there was a possibility of offering surplus pumpkins to the community in exchange for a small donation. Planning for this low-key event due to take place in October was under way.

With limited guidance or direction, a small planning committee was born, and the event evolved into a full open morning at the allotment. Cakes, crafts, hot drinks, raffle, pumpkins (obviously), fresh vegetables and a pumpkin photo booth were all on offer during the morning. The allotment ran out of pumpkins within 35 minutes of opening and the amount donated far exceeded expectations.

A number of individuals contributed to the success of the event and this truly was a community effort. Raffle prizes were donated from members of the allotment and Cherry Tree Academy. Rick Durrant who is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees and also runs the school allotment, assisted with supplying fresh vegetables for the raffle and hay bales for the pumpkin photobooth. The brains behind the project and much of the work was delivered by Vickie Corbett and Elaine Griffiths. Tentage was provided by 3 FP Wg HQ, homemade cakes and toffee apples were supplied by members of the allotment who would rival GBBO contestants, and much ground work was conducted by other members in the weeks preceding the event.

In all, more than £315 was raised which will support aspirations to deliver a new shed, new tools and fuel for the mower and rotavator in the coming growing season.

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