Let's keep this plot going in Paley's honour

Photo:Woodpile at the NLCA allotment

Woodpile at the NLCA allotment

All photos by Julia Wilde

Photo:Julia doing some mulching

Julia doing some mulching

Photo:The site has lots of potential

The site has lots of potential

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Let's keep this plot going in Paley's honour' page

Photo:The gooseberries are ripening

The gooseberries are ripening

Photo:Feet up for a few minutes by the big  pond

Feet up for a few minutes by the big pond

Photo:Wendy feeding the topiary hedge in the form of a bison

Wendy feeding the topiary hedge in the form of a bison

Photo:Watering the produce

Watering the produce

Photo:Planting garlic

Planting garlic

Photo:Tadpoles aabound in the pond

Tadpoles aabound in the pond

NLCA allotment at Stanmer

By Julia Wilde, North Laine resident

Following the recent sad and untimely death of Paley O’Connor, a vibrant and popular resident of North Laine, we’ve pledged to keep the NLCA allotment at Stanmer going in her honour.  Paley died suddenly on 16th March 2016.

She dedicated 20 years

Paley dedicated 20 years of her life to creating an eco-friendly, organic plot to be enjoyed by all North Lainers and was always on the look-out for new volunteers. Matthew Pollard has worked on the allotment alongside Paley for some years now and says, “Paley gave me an amazing gift – she taught me how much I love nature and inspired my passion for gardening. She was a great friend.”

Now a second plot

Quite recently, Paley had taken on a second plot, doubling the size of the growing area. So we need more volunteers than ever to help us create Paley’s vision of a productive plot – and equally importantly, a beautiful space to relax and unwind in.

Lots of mulching

Organic gardening uses a great deal of mulching, rather than digging – so it’s not as backbreaking as you might think. The plot is part of The Platform and situated in a very sunny site. Surrounded by trees and woodland, and with a horse paddock nearby, it’s a blissful place to be, alive with birdsong – and an occasional whinny. 

What’s growing

The plot has plenty of fruit bushes – raspberries, gooseberries and a mature apple tree. We’ve recently [Spring 2016] planted some vegetables, including heritage potato varieties, carrots, red and white onions, and some garlic and parsley. There’s also mint and rhubarb on site, and lots of flowers – Paley loved cut flowers. Lizzie Deane had the excellent suggestion of planting a cherry tree in Paley’s memory, so we need to plan for this and find a good location.

A fire pit

The last thing Paley oversaw at the allotment was the creation of a fire pit. Her idea was to have a bench (which she has designed and built, it just needs some finishing touches) and other seating nearby, where we can all gather to relax and enjoy the fruits of our labours on long, warm, summer evenings. She wanted flowers all around too, so we can roast freshly picked vegetables and enjoy the peace and quiet of our own little piece of paradise, away from the hustle and bustle of city life.  

Two iconic hedges

Paley was very proud of her topiary hedges. She grew them from cuttings taken from the hedge at Stanmer Church. One is shaped like a bison, the other like a caterpillar. Together with a beautiful, winding path, they help break up the plot into an artistically woven patchwork of fruit, flowers and vegetables.

The butterfly bush

Near the fire pit is an established rose bush and a contorted hazel that looks very exotic. Paley also very much enjoyed the buddleia – also known as the ‘butterfly bush’. So we look forward to seeing stunning aerial acrobatics in the coming months.

A convenient place to be

We share resources and take time to water others’ plots when we see the need - and in turn the favour is reciprocated. There’s a good range of communal tools housed in a large, metal shipping container, so there’s no need to lug heavy forks and spades with us. All you need to bring is your willingness to get stuck in and a pair of good gardening gloves. Make sure you also bring some liquid refreshment and a few snacks.

Other facilities

There’s no need to worry about getting 'caught short' either. Being an eco plot there’s also an eco-toilet – so all mod cons are provided, just bring some tissues. On the way there you pass near a beautiful pond that’s teeming with wildlife. The idea is to encourage the insects and amphibians that perform the job of natural pest control. At the time of writing the pond is full to the brim with tadpoles. You can put your hand in and pull out five or six every time. The frogs are extremely useful in an organic setting as they gorge themselves on slugs and other ‘pests’.


If you feel inspired to help out, we’d love to see you. It’s a great way to meet like-minded folk, get some exercise, and unwind in the beauty of nature – a real tonic for the soul. If you can’t make a regular commitment, that’s alright. Sporadic, or even a one-off visit will help us enormously. It’s amazing how much you can achieve in a short space of time with just a few pairs of willing hands.

We've lost Paley's knowledge

In losing Paley we’ve lost so much, including her immense treasure trove of knowledge. So if you have any expertise in horticulture we’d love to hear from you.

We're there weekend afternoons

There’s usually someone up there on weekend afternoons. We’re working with Paley’s daughter Nisha to ensure the plans Paley drew up become a reality. With your help, we hope to get to the position where we can hold regular summer weekend barbecues with beer and wine to go with freshly cooked food. So please do join us.

How to get there

Stanmer is, of course, a fair way from the North Laine and the allotment initially takes some finding. So if you’d like to get involved, please contact us via contact@nlcaonline.org.uk and I can arrange to give you a lift.

We look forward to seeing you there!


[Previously published in the North Laine Runner, No 240, May/June 2016]

This page was added on 02/08/2016.

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.