Real Men Sow

My Flotsam Allotment Bench, and Other Useful Stuff Found in the Sea

I live on the Dengie Peninsula, a funny little bit of Essex, full of big fields, wide skies, desolate marshland and two tributaries to the North Sea. Its a million miles from The Only Way is Essex and all the other tired old stereotypes.

The peninsula is surrounded on three sides by water: the Blackwater Estuary to the north, The River Crouch to the south and the North Sea to the east, so you’re never too far from the water.

Its not just the sailing, the fishing and the wildlife that the river and estuary offer, and reading the touching story of Lia Leendertz’s bench on her great blog Midnight Rambling reminded me that it was the local river that provided me with my allotment bench, in the form of a lovely big lump of oak.

I was so lucky to find it, and me and Ailsa dragged the thing about half a mile over the sea wall and across the fields in pitch black, before collapsing at my parents’ house. The effort was well worth it though. In fact, the wood was such a large piece that it made three benches.

These benches aren’t the only useful item that I’ve picked up from the river. Although its not exactly the Jurassic Coast around here, there have been a few dead handy finds and forages over the past couple of years.

Shells to Keep Slugs Off My Crops
Each time I go fishing at Bradwell beach, I pick up a small bag of shells to put around potential snail snacks. Like using egg shells, I break up the shells and scatter them on the edge of beds and pots, as the snails don’t like crawling over the sharp bits.

Seaweed
I’m planning to use this as manure on one of my beds this winter. On some days, you can’t move for bladderwrack in the river, and at low tide there is plenty to forage for digging in and making feed with.

Driftwood Raised Beds
I made this raised bed using planks of wood found within a few metres of each other in a local creek. I couldn’t believe my luck, and once the wood dried out, it was perfect for its new job. In fact, the piece you can see in the top right of the bed was too perfect, and is now a mantelpiece in my house.

Rocks
My eyes nearly popped out of my head when I saw the prices some people were paying for rocks at my local garden centre. When I wanted some edging for a bed in the garden, I headed down to the river again, and slung some rocks into a wheelbarrow. If you’re going to do this though, don’t take too many, as they offer habitat for creatures such as crabs.

Fishing Nets
Bradwell is the closest we’ve got to a storm beach here on the peninsular and the best place for intriguing, romantic flotsam like fishing nets. A bracing winter walk from the power station to St Peters on the Wall will often throw up nets of varying sizes, colours and materials.

The ones I’ve salvaged needed some repair, and the size of holes matched to the right pest, but they do look attractive on an allotment.

The sea is the best thing about living where I do, and there is something warm and satisfying about extending it on to my plot. It’s a lovely feeling to be able to sit on my allotment bench and look out over the plot whilst drawing a connection between two of my favourite things.

Especially when it hasn’t cost me a penny….

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8 Comments

  1. Ronnie/Hurtledto60September 14, 2011 at 6:30 pmReply

    Glad I read your blog Jono, it is full of ideas I never thought of. With the amount of seaweed we have hear, I can’t think why I have not been collecting it for the garden. That is my next job… the amount the rough see has thrown up in the last few days, I could keep the street in seaweed for weeks :0)

    • Jono

      JonoSeptember 15, 2011 at 9:28 amReplyAuthor

      Hi Ronnie – Thanks for your comments. Your photos certainly captured how choppy the sea was. I bet there are some great treasures to be found along there at the moment.

      Hi Liza – Thanks for your comment, but don’t tell to many people, we like to keep it a secret!

  2. LizaSeptember 15, 2011 at 6:47 amReply

    Thanks for an inspiring post. My dad sails in the River Blackwater. It’s a peaceful and beautiful area. The next time I visit I’ll keeping eye out for flotsam!

  3. Alan @ it's not work, it's gardening!September 15, 2011 at 10:59 pmReply

    Jono — I haven’t been reading many garden blogs lately, so just caught up on yours. I love benches, and love reusing materials (especially wood), so perfect timing!

    • Jono

      JonoSeptember 16, 2011 at 1:53 pmReplyAuthor

      Thanks Alan. I just wish I had more practical skills so I could do something better than put the wood on top of some tree trunks!

  4. Lia LeendertzSeptember 19, 2011 at 10:08 amReply

    Thanks so much for the link to my blog and kind words. I am very jealous of your flotsam and jetsam. There is nothing more romantic and evocative than an artfully arranged bit of old net, and how wonderful that you can make them useful too. Would love a garden by the sea.

    • Jono

      JonoSeptember 19, 2011 at 8:32 pmReplyAuthor

      Thanks for your comment Lia. Not sure I’ve ever been able to arrange anything artfully, but I try!

  5. Real Men Sow » Blog Archive » What’s Going in the Naughty Bed?January 16, 2012 at 8:47 pmReply

    [...] occupier of Plot 105. The soil at the bottom was fine and, unlike my other beds, stone free, so I fenced it in with some big old driftwood planks and set about using the [...]

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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