Headingley Station Allotments is home to 24 beautifully-kept plots – their dedicated owners growing everything from broccoli to sunflowers.
Looking at this picturesque spot in the heart of Headingley, it’s hard to imagine that when Melvyn Nowland first set foot on site there was a greenhouse buried there.
The 66-year-old, who is trustee and letting officer for Headingley Station Allotments West, said: “When I say it was a mess back then – someone had buried a greenhouse and all that was showing was the top of it.
“I dug a bed out, complete with a sprung mattress.
“It took 15 years to get it right.”
Now, around 20 years after the great-grandfather-of-10 took on his beloved plot opposite Headingley railway station, the 1.5 acre site has been transformed beyond recognition, offering a glorious welcome to visitors alighting there.
Melvyn, who spends around 60 hours a week on site with wife Lynne and their springer spaniel Badger, said: “People get off those trains from Harrogate and all over and when see our site it’s an advertisement not just for our areas but for Leeds.”
After two decades of toil, dedication and devotion from a close-knit team of gardeners, the site now boasts 24 beautifully-kept plots which are home to everything from cucumbers to broccoli, artichokes, cauliflowers and tomatoes, gladioli, sunflowers and sweet peas, not to mention honey bees, dragon flies, butterflies, birdlife and a beck containing frogs, newts and water shrimps.
There’s a bench where passers-by can take in the view and tranquillity – there’s even a trampoline for children to play on.
Because despite its appearance, this site is about inclusivity, not wining prizes.
Plotholders range in age from 21 to 86 and include a man who is registered blind.
Melvyn told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “We are there to help each other.
“When you start with competitions you start keeping your secrets to yourself.
“We want children to come down because they are your next gardeners.”
Lynne said: “When the grandkids come up from London the very first thing they want to do is go to see the allotment.”
And their great-grandson Dominic, who uses a wheelchair, loves nothing more than getting his hands dirty on the plot.
Kevin Bray is described as the ‘new chap’, despite being a plotholder for almost two years.
Mr Bray, who by day is an environmental consultant, said: “I like the whole idea of reducing my environmental impact, reducing food miles and my carbon footprint.
“Then there’s the social side, the conviviality, everybody is friends down here.”
The 61-year-old said the community spirit on site was “The Big Society – well before the term was coined by the Government”.
Councillor John Illingworth (Labour, Kirkstall) who has city-wide responsibility for allotments, added: “It’s good exercise and improves people’s health and happiness.”
Melvyn and Lynne, 65, have grown around 500 cabbages, 400 onions and five bags of potatoes in the past year.
But the green-fingered couple can’t put a price on their savings – as they can’t remember the last time they had to pay for their veg.
Growers proudly hand over any excess produce to be sold at Kirkstall Deli Market at Kirkstall Abbey on the last Saturday of each month and the cash goes into improving the site.
Mr Bray said: “I really like the idea of all my surplus being used to feed other people locally.”
Neighbouring site Headingley Station Allotments East is some years behind but work is under way to turn it into a similarly glorious green haven.