When green-fingered Jeff Walker’s prized Sheffield allotment was burned to the ground in an arson attack he felt like giving up his pastime of 30 years.
Last summer, nothing remained of the plot at Marsh Lane allotments, Crosspool, except charred timbers and burned equipment after the fire.
But today the veteran gardener’s plot – as well as his faith in humanity – has been restored thanks to the big-hearted people of Sheffield who rallied around after the devastating blaze.
Retired lorry driver Jeff, of Crookes, broke down in tears as he thanked everyone who came to his aid.
The 71-year-old said: “We’ve got it all back up and running again.
“I’m choked up as we talk as it gets me every time, just talking about how generous people have been, everyone has been so marvellous it is unbelievable.
“At first I did feel like giving up, but everyone said ‘no, don’t pack it in’.”
The shed on Jeff’s plot, affectionately named ‘Tuksumduin’, was used by all the growers on the allotments as a community.
It was used to store tools and wood and the gardeners would meet there for a cup of coffee in between tending their tomatoes.
The fire in August 2014 also spread to a neighbouring greenhouse used by Jeff, a past winner of Sheffield’s Bolton Cup, given to the city’s finest allotment, and a wooden trailer. Once word spread of the attack – said to to be part of a spate of wrecking sprees in the area – offers of help flooded in.
One anonymous donor who read about Jeff’s plight in The Star donated £1,000.
Pupils from nearby Lydgate Lane School visit the allotment to learn how vegetables grow and donated a cheque for £153.
Builder’s merchants and stores also donated items.
Jeff is holding an open day at his allotment on bank holiday weekend to thank people who have helped out. He said: “People have donated nails and screws, you name it. To see what I’ve done to my plot now, it’s about the same as what we had before, but they’ll not burn this one down.
“The good thing about it is we’ve got a community around here and I’m keeping that as much as I can.
“It’s them that kept me going, and the children.
“I just want to say thank you to everyone who has helped for what they’ve done.”