A veteran Sheffield allotment holder says he feels like ‘walking away’ from his beloved pastime of over 30 years – after arsonists burned his shed to the ground.
Nothing remains of heartbroken 70-year-old Jeff Walker’s plot but a blackened expanse of charred timbers, twisted metal and ruined gardening equipment.
The pensioner has had a plot at Marsh Lane Allotments in Crosspool since the 1980s, but said he is so devastated by the destruction he does not know if he can face carrying on.
“This was my retirement place, my escape,” said Jeff, a past winner of Sheffield’s Bolton Cup, given to the city’s finest allotment.
“I took this plot in 1985. I had one at Hagg Hill and then I transferred to Marsh Lane. I’ve been really proud of it – but I could walk away now.”
Jeff, a retired lorry driver, who lives on St Thomas Road, Crookes, and whose plot was affectionately named ‘Tuksumduin’, said his shed was used not just by him but all the growers on the site.
“It was divided into sections, so part of it was used to store tools and wood, and we had a meeting place and canteen there too,” he said.
“We used to sit and have a cup of tea and a chat, and we’d get 10 people in there sometimes.
“It was a community thing - and now it’s gone.”
Firefighters from Rivelin station were called to Marsh Lane at just after 3am yesterday to put out the blazing shed, which covered 20 square feet.
The heat from the flames which took hold in the shed spread to a neighbouring greenhouse, in which Jeff was growing tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.
A wooden trailer was also damaged beyond use.
Allotment holders at the site, which has 43 plots, say they have been targeted repeatedly by vandals and thieves in recent years, with one of Jeff’s fellow growers, Craig Harrop, calling the latest attack ‘the last straw’.
The incident comes less than two weeks after a similar wrecking spree at Hagg Lane allotments, also in Crosspool, where a hut was set alight and sheds broken into.
Even stone memorials from neighbouring Crookes Cemetery have been stolen from graves and thrown into the allotments.
Craig, 51, who lives on Den Bank Crescent, Crosspool, said growers discovered the smouldering remains of the shed at around 9am yesterday, when they planned to use the trailer to take produce to the Sheffield Fayre in Norfolk Park.
“It really is the last straw,” he said.
“This is supposed to be an area where crime is lowest. At least £5,000 of damage has been caused this time.”
Jeff blamed ‘mindless youths’ for the newest incident, adding: “There must have been a big group of them. Every year this happens at about the same time.
“We store petrol for the lawn mowers and machinery, and I think that’s what they’ve used.” Police have investigated previous break-ins and outbreaks of vandalism without success, but Jeff said he hoped this time the culprits had been captured on camera by a device he rigged up to take photos of wild birds.
“If you step across a beam of light, the camera is triggered – but I don’t know until I can look at the pictures whether it’s worked,” said Jeff.
n Anyone with information about the arson attack should call 101.