‘Having our son was a big motivator to take on an allotment’

Drew and Oonagh Bradleys allotment is at Ards Allotments located on the northern shores of Strangford Lough. They live in Newtownards with their two and a half year old son Solomon. Picture: Darryl Armitage
Drew and Oonagh Bradleys allotment is at Ards Allotments located on the northern shores of Strangford Lough. They live in Newtownards with their two and a half year old son Solomon. Picture: Darryl Armitage

Drew and Oonagh Bradley’s allotment is at Ards Allotments located on the northern shores of Strangford Lough. They live in Newtownards with their two and a half year old son Solomon.

Oonagh says: “We live about 1.7 miles from our front door to the plot at Ards Allotment, so we are very close by and that’s important to us as we like to get down to the allotment as often as we can during the week, especially during the summer months when it’s so important to grass and weeds under control.”

"I have a lot of fond memories of helping my grandad with his tomatoes. He used to grow them every year and he did quite well, so when I went to visit and stay he would take me out into the back garden to help with the tomatoes," recalls Drew Bradley. Picture: Drew and Oonagh Bradley

"I have a lot of fond memories of helping my grandad with his tomatoes. He used to grow them every year and he did quite well, so when I went to visit and stay he would take me out into the back garden to help with the tomatoes," recalls Drew Bradley. Picture: Drew and Oonagh Bradley

Drew admits that he didn’t have many inclinations to gardening and owning an allotment when he was younger.

“I would have to say that I didn’t have the interest in gardening when I was younger. But my dad did have an allotment type at the bottom of our garden back home in the suburbs of Birmingham. And so I would have gone through spells of helping him. But it’s definitely something that I have come to later.

Meanwhile, Oonagh who grew up down the Ards Peninsula and her family had some land.

Oonagh says: “I grew up in a rural area down the Ards Peninsula so my family had some land. It was mainly for raising livestock like goats and hens rather than growing produce.”

Having Solomon was a major motivation for both of us getting the allotment. We started to think about Solomon would be eating as he grew up. We have both become much cleaner eaters since we took the allotment on, it was something that we were doing anyway, but having a child encouraged us further down that path.

Oonagh Bradley

She says that her earliest memories of gardening would with her mum when she was a child

“I spent a lot of time helping my mum do the weeding. Mum was busy making the house and garden look nice and planting lovely flowers, while the children were put to task weeding.”

Drew says that his earliest memories of getting his hands dirty in the soil was helping his grandad growing vegetables.

He says: “I have a lot of fond memories of helping my grandad with his tomatoes. He used to grow them every year and he did quite well, so when I went to visit and stay he would take me out into the back garden to help with the tomatoes.”

Apple growing on Drew and Oonagh Bradley's at Ards Allotments located on the northern shores of Strangford Lough. Picture: Drew and Oonagh Bradley

Apple growing on Drew and Oonagh Bradley's at Ards Allotments located on the northern shores of Strangford Lough. Picture: Drew and Oonagh Bradley

Drew and Oonagh took up the allotment three years ago

Oonagh recalls: “We took the allotment in 2014 when I was pregnant with Solomon. So we have had the allotment three years now.

“It was something completely new to us both. But we have loved having it. For us we took the decision get allotment because we live in a terraced house in the town, we didn’t have much space for a garden.

“We just had a small yard, so the decision was made we wanted more space. That came even more important when Solomon was born that we wanted to give him some green space that he can run around in.”

But now three years into owning allotment both Drew and Oonagh are getting into the business of growing.

Oonagh says: “We are now really into the growing and we love getting time to spend down here.”

Their son is a big motivation for both Drew and Oonagh owning an allotment.

Oonagh says: “Having Solomon was a major motivation for both of us getting the allotment. We started to think about Solomon would be eating as he grew up.

“We have both become much cleaner eaters since we took the allotment on, it was something that we were doing anyway, but having a child encouraged us further down that path.”

Drew says: “Solomon is now getting to an age that you can see his little mind absorbing everything in from being down at the allotment.

“It is wonderful see him walking around the plot pointing things out and naming them. And he even has started helping out with the watering.

“I had a friend over from England a few weeks back and he couldn’t believe how Solomon could pick out potatoes and artichokes, and he certainly would know more about vegetables and plants than many adults.”

The Bradley’s allotment have all the main staple growing.

Drew says: “Potatoes and onions have always grown very well down here at Ards Allotments. And our strawberries have been very good this year. The first year we did beetroots and we had a glut, but then last year they didn’t work quite so well. But we have given them another good stab this year and we are hopeful. Another vegetable that seem to do well are the carrots and parsnips.”

The fruit bushes on Drew and Oonagh’s allotment have been abundant.

Oonagh comments: “All the fruit bushes that we are growing, with the exception of raspberries which don’t appear to favour the area, are brilliant and very abundant and we are looking forward to our gooseberry and blackcurrant harvests. And so has the rhubarb which is plentiful this year.”

Oonagh continues: “We have been lucky that some of Drew’s family who live in Co Donegal have sent us fruit bushes which they have taken out of their back gardens and sent over to us here in Co Down and they have been fantastic.”