Humble Pie

It has been rumoured, that some time in the dim and distant past, I made a statement regarding friends and colleagues who, on reaching retirement age —

“they end up spending their days pottering around in their gardens and allotments and gradually fading away”!

Now, two things have happened to me in the past 6 months which have had an impact on my lifestyle. The first occurred at the end of November last year when I was diagnosed with a ruptured Adductor Tendon following a slip on snow and ice. The Doctors predicted a 1-3 month recovery but maybe longer.

We are now 6 months down the road and still nowhere closer to being fully repaired. The slightest misplaced step and the pain in the groin is excruciating, but more importantly, I have lost so much muscle in my legs that I am struggling to walk more than 500m without having to take a rest! As result, I have put on more weight and am struggling mentally.

The second, is one I never thought I would have to announce. At the end of January this year, I took on an allotment! Yes, you heard that right – an allotment!

I am retiring later this year and wanted more than the container vegetable garden I am restricted to at home. This, I thought, would make an ideal retirement project to maintain a level of food self-sufficiency. Yes, I know, I was going to be doing exactly what I had spoken out against!

However, I had no idea how much work it took to bring a very overgrown allotment under some form of cultivation and to maintain it weed free through the year. In the past 4 months I have cleared numerous square metres of brambles, stinging nettles and ferns. Done, and continue to do battle with horsetail, the most evil weed in the world!

I have turned over 3 large beds (5m x 2m each) and cleared three others which I will dig over in the autumn. I have dug a huge cast iron bath out of the ground and converted it from a foul smelling stagnant pond to raised bed for green salads. I have lifted over 100 metres of old carpet and had numerous bonfires to clear the rubbish. I have also carried 10 pallets to the plot (no vehicular access for 400m).

However, it was only the other day, when I was in my knees weeding with the sun beating down on my back, that I realised the very positive impact acquiring and working this allotment was starting to have on my mental health and well-being. That is in addition to all the physical benefits I was discovering, such as losing weight again!

It was walking back to the car this morning after an hour on the allotment, that I started to realise that my legs were not aching so much. I was actually enjoying the walk and feeling that I was regaining some of the lost muscle in my legs. The work at the allotment was having a major impact on my physical and mental health.

Getting outside is not always about walking up hills and mountains or trekking the long distant footpaths of the UK. It is not just about off-road cycling or running or about being involved with any strenuous outdoor activity. It can be about the simpler things in life such as maintaining a garden or an allotment.

For me, as hill-walking hardliner, it was time to eat humble pie and start to shout out the virtues of the outdoors in all its guises. Because just being outside in the fresh air can be a life saver when recovering from injury or serious illness. However, I will return to walking as soon as possible.

More importantly, never under estimate the amount of work and energy that goes into gardening!

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