CHAPTER 9: The Village Community

One of the greatest aspects of my dissertation was the chance to re-ignite the bond between myself and the village community. Having completed my scholarship in America (in 2012), I very quickly moved to the Royal Holloway, and thus I felt that I had lost a certain connection with the village I had grown up to love and respect. It was, after all, thanks to the warm community-spirit of the village that the allotments evolved. And they are a team-effort. From keeping the track neatly paved to maintaining the gates, the success of the allotment site is the product of many hours of hard work from each individual member.

A few weeks in to my summer fieldwork, I received a call from the village chairman saying that he'd love to show my site to the judges of the upcoming Anglia in Bloom competition. I welcomed the chance to show and explain my project, and afterwards I joined the allotment gardeners, the judges and members of the village community for tea and cake at the newly opened village hall.

Another chance to integrate my project within a competition came only the month after, and this time it was what the chairman labelled "the biggy". In essence, our village had reached the final of the Britain in Bloom competition and members of the Royal Horticultural Society would be touring the patchwork quilt of gardens and houses over the course of the morning. Once again, it was fantastic to talk to people of a professional horticultural persuasion and I savoured, once more, the chance for a post-judging nibble later in the day.

These prestigious visits obviously came amongst the daily traffic of people wandering up to 'have a look' at my site. I suppose it was a balance between seeing four large trenches in a field and being inquisitive as to who I was burying (that did seem to be a recurring hypothesis) alongside their general interest in seeing how my project evolved over time. Some who visited regularly would have seen the site transform from a set-aside of wild grasses to a fully operational field site. And part of the research process, especially nowadays, is to communicate science with the public. It was splendid to see so many people fascinated and perhaps I've changed their perspective on soils. They left their houses thinking it was muck.... and hopefully they returned to consider soils as being one of the world's most important resources.

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