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Growing pains

Allotments were once a space for working-class families to grow cheap, wholesome food. Now a trendy new tribe of gardeners is encroaching on their territory, and all in the garden is not so lovely

In 1952, a small group of men set to work in a field near their homes in south London. Centuries earlier, the field had been the last grazing point for cattle on their journey to slaughter at Smithfield market. But over the years the land had become fallow, and oak trees and scrub had crept in from the nearby woods. The men felled the trees, scythed the long grass, cut back bramble and cleared away tons of wartime scrap. Then they dug and fed the soil—and turned the field into allotments.

These men, who included our friend Ben and his…

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