Allotment: A case of the disappearing polytunnel....

Looking back on it, the allotment Old Guard had looked somewhat askance when the polytunnel went up.

First of all it was shiny and new – contravening the unwritten rule of allotmenteering that you can use only items en route to the dump. And, secondly, it was big.

“Of course, what you really need,” advised one, “is a three-foot stake at each end; otherwise the first gust of wind and you’ll lose it.”

“Yes, yes, whatever,” I thought, but daren’t say because trying to attach the cover to a 3m x 2m polytunnel is like trying to Clingfilm a porcupine.

And so it was, on the morning we all awoke to hear gales had halted the Suffolk Show for the first time in 181 years, I kicked my Co-Allotmenteer awake.

“I’m worried about my bean poles,” I said. (Don’t tell me gardeners know nothing of romance.)

“Go back to sleep,” said my Co-Allotmenteer.

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“What if the polytunnel has blown away?” I demanded. By then it’d been up a week and housed my giant tomato plant, Cheryl, and my giant marrow seeding, Dave.

But my Co-Allotmenteer had already taken his own advice and was snoring.

So, armed with nothing but a black Labrador and empty Tesco bag, I braved the elements.

Cowpasture allotments might look like a shanty town but, say what you like, the assortment of lean-tos, sheds and glass-houses have stood the test of time. Which is more than could be said for my polytunnel.

“Where is it?” I asked the black Labrador. Ground which had previously housed a reinforced Gardman walk-in polytunnel was now empty; exposing Cheryl, Dave, 12 tomato plants and 15 assorted chillies to the weather.

The polytunnel hadn’t just shifted slightly, it had completely disappeared.

While the dog rolled in manure I scoured the field. I am known for my ability to lose keys, credit cards and mobile phones but – even for me – losing a super-sized, walk-ins structure with bolted hoop frame is going it.

While the dog continued to roll, I continued to scour.

Finally, out of the corner of my eye, I glimpsed the polytunnel lodged between the roof of a far-flung shed and a tree. The tough reinforced PVC cover was in tatters, the guy ropes and pegs (for extra stability) fluttered in the gale.

“I bet this doesn’t happen to Titchmarsh,” I told the dog as we wrestled it back down to earth.

Now where’s the duct tape?