After winning last year’s competition to find the best allotment in Sheffield, Craig Harrop had to dig a little deeper this time around.
Topically, he was inspired by the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War and the Tour de France – and won the contest again.
“I think I have a better garden this year than last,” said Craig, aged 51, who is the fourth generation of the family to have the plot off Marsh Lane in Crosspool.
“I’ve done a bit of a theme. We have had the 100 years since the start of the First World War and I thought I would do something to do with the Tour de France.”
In fact, the allotment takes more of a cue more from World War Two. There is a scarecrow looking like Dad’s Army’s Captain Mainwaring from the Home Guard and exhortations: ‘Halt, Who Goes There?’ and ‘Dig for Victory’. Flowers are in red, white and blue.
Then there is a fruit bed in the colours of the Tour de France along with an old wheelbarrow painted yellow.
But it is more than the gimmicks that impressed judges in the Bolton Cup.
The allotment brims with traditional and not-so traditional flowers, fruit and vegetables. Exotic items such as kohlrabi, a Middle Eastern vegetable, Japanese onions, chillis, Chinese watercress and Electric Daisies (a flowering herb that makes your mouth tingle) flourish in Craig’s hands.
He even grows his own grapes – it’s the best year I have ever had” – and there is also a pond with koi carp and a seating area in memory of his dad, John, from whom Craig took over the plot on his death almost three years ago.
His father, who worked the allotment for more than 20 years, never won the council-backed competition, coming second or third.
But Craig picked up the bug from him and, as a chef, appreciated the value of growing his own food. He used to live in York where he had three bistros. Now he works at Alexander Court care home in Crookes.
The allotment, officially in the name of his mum, Jacqueline, is near his home in Den Bank Crescent. “I dread to think how long I spend on it,” said Craig. “There’s not a day when I don’t go there.”
He is “really chuffed” at scooping top prize again.
“I knew I had a good garden, but you don’t know what anybody else has got, and you don’t know what people are looking for.
“But there’s a lot of work goes into it.
“I don’t want to just put something in to grow. I like to have a theme.”
Runners-up in the Bolton Cup are Barbara and Ernest Pointer, who have an allotment at Woodseats.