Lionel’s 90th Birthday 2002

lionel

Lionel Batchelor celebrated his 90th birthday on 10th September 2002. Not only is Lionel our oldest active allotment gardener – this year his runner beans were up and climbing the bean poles before many of us had even sown the seed – but he has been gardening at Sunnyside for an impressive 65 years. So we would like to congratulate you, Lionel on this memorable achievement and wish you a very Happy Birthday. Lionel has seen a lot of changes on the allotments over the years and recently spent a little time reminiscing.

 

I’ve always been a gardener; I suppose it’s in the blood. My grandfather had a small holding up at Northchurch where he kept pigs and chickens and as kids we used to help feed and muck them out.  My father had an allotment at Northchurch too, and my brothers and were expected to help out at the weekends. I got married at Sunnyside Church and we moved to Ellesmere Road and it was then that I got my first allotment on Sunnyside New it was. That was in about 1937. I put my name down for a garden and I had to wait quite a while. In those days all the plots on both sides of Ivy House lane were taken; it was really a sight to see.  Of course everyone grew their own fruit an veg then to make the poor wages go farther. And people didn’t move around much; the population was more static, so you had to wait for someone to die before you got a plot. I gardened over on Sunnyside New for a bit and then I moved to the top of C  Road on Sunnyside Old. It was all well cultivated up there then. I do remember we had trouble with rabbits there – you had to net everything if you wanted a crop. Mind you I expect a few got put in the pot!

 

After a while I moved again, this time to B1 where Peter and Betty Fowell are now. During the war I remember a US plane crashed onto the railway embankment near Netherfield. There was a lot of black smoke as it circled – it was probably trying to land at Bovingdon. For ages afterwards I was digging live ammunition out of my plot! It must have scattered on impact. Talking about the war, I remember when a bomb destroyed the railway bridge on Ivy House Lane. Of course the railway was a target for the German bombers to disrupt supplies and communications. There were a lot of troop movements too. Luckily an,oncoming train managed  to stop short of the bridge but I remember people being helped off the train. It took ages for the bridge to be repaired and we had to use a makeshift footpath to get to the allotments.

 

People talk a lot now about the weather being more extreme. I don’t know, but I do remember a heavy fall of snow in June – was it 1957? My peas were just coming into flower and they were covered with snow. It was so heavy that several branches broke off the row of chestnut trees. Soon after this I moved down onto A Road and joined the ‘professionals’. I was quite proud of that – this was
where they all had their gardens. Several of them grew for exhibitions at the horticultural shows. The fierce competition lead to  some real disagreements! We had several chrysanth growers. I remember they used to rig up shelters to prevent the plants being damaged and even put little caps on the flowers themselves to stop them being spoilt. We didn’t go in for Annual Shows but we did have an annual competition for best allotment. I won it one year. I felt so proud to have beaten the professionals, but I can’t remember now what I won.

 

I don’t remember badgers and deer being such a pest in the past, but there were always pigeons. They used to shoot them. Of course  there’s a lot more choice of seed variety these days and some of the F1 s are very good. But some of the old favourites are still worth growing. People have always been ready to help when I’ve needed a hand and I’m grateful. But I would like to thank Ted especially for the help he has given me recently.

 

A special birthday coffee party was held for Lionel on 10th September at 11 am on B15.

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Ted Dyer

 
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Click on the image above to read the many tributes to Ted.

 

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