an allotment shed and the stories to be told

Remember the photo of the shed with the cane chairs outside, a perfect place to sit and ponder?

I’ve recently ‘inherited’ a shed – it came with the new plot. The gentleman who rented it before me has retired after many years of allotmenting, always a sad moment to see one of the ‘old’ boys leave.

There are the practicalities of sheds like tool storage but every shed is different and personalised. And walking into this shed I’m taken back a step in time and into someone else’s private world.

Entering a shed everything quietens. There is a stillness, it’s as if time has stopped as if the gentleman who last used the shed just packed up for the day expecting to return tomorrow.

Old tools, the wooden handles worked smooth from years of use, collected over a gardening lifetime.

 The light is softer inside the shed, gentler, there is a warmth from the wood.

The shed whispers of a life lived. Of a place to escape and just be.

Tidy and organised. Carefulness and of frugality.

Balls of string, rolls of wire, screws and nails. Rusting tins. Stories to tell.

A kettle and tea cups. A rake and shears.

Cobwebs and dust are gathering

As I step back outside and close the door I wonder if I should leave it like it is. Almost as a museum place, everything where it is, left untouched. It seems a shame to touch and to break the spell.

In my heart I want to leave it as it is, but I know I will take the photograph down and try to return it to its rightful owner and in all honesty I’ll probably dispose of the shoes too. Over time there will be the temptation to use some of the tools, they’ll be good to work with – old tools always are.  And when it rains, as rain it will, I can stand sheltering on the doorstep and stare out over the allotment and out to sea, a cup of tea in my hand; yes I have my eye on the kettle, you can’t garden without tea.

Would you leave it as it is – a place and piece in time, suspended in cobwebs and memories?


  • Beautiful post. Maybe a combination? Leave some things as they are, use what tools are useful, and return the things that are too personal to hold on to. Regardless, this shed appears to be a precious place.

  • Use it…the old tools need a purpose, just like people. In time, you’ll add your own layer to the history, and someday, you’ll pass it on to another gardener.
    Marvelous post 🙂

    • I can’t help but imagine what went on, in a time when there was no internet, deveoping film for cameras was expensive….. and no wwe have it all here and now.

  • Oh how lovely! I would be tempted to leave it as it is, but like you I would see the possibilities… Clear it and save what can be used, then make it your own (for someone else to discover in 50 years!).

  • Beautiful photographs, they really speak. I particularly like the tin box, the open drawer and the one with the photograph. Maybe you should just use the shed as you would naturally and hang some of these on the walls.

    • That is a genius idea, it will be easy enough to print these photos (I like the tin box too 🙂 ) and it woul dbe a way of recording the space, and decorating it at the same time. Yaay Pimp My Shed 😉

  • Love this post! When I entered my grandmothers shed, I did the same thing, Stopped and reflected. I looked at everything, displayed some things in my house and used the rest. I still have a part of her with me, when I’m using those tools. Even if you didn’t know him very well, I think he would want you to put those tools to use. He knows you will treasure them.

    • Hi Brenda and what a lovely story to share, thank you. Your grandmothers tools – I still have some of my mum’s tools that I use all the time, plus a favourite watering can! So I understand what you mean about having part of her with you. It’s a lovely thought that garden tools can connect us, and continue long after we have gone.

  • Beautifully captured Claire, I felt the years of love in every picture. I love when you can feel history in a place. Does seem quite sad to move and rearrange everything but if you are like me, you will also want to put your seal on it to which you will one day lovingly give on to the next person.
    🙂 Mandy xo

    • What I forgot to say was that I already have a shed, which is a right jumble of stuff – it’s deliberately a mess so as to stop people stealing my precious replacement tools like my garden fork and spade. So this one is a bit of a luxury, a space to use and not spoil! Mind you I definitely want to see if I can get the kettle to work 🙂 Hoping you have a super weekend Mandy x

  • Love this post! I have a great attraction to old things. There is an ‘aura’ about them, I think. At one point they were new, selected and bought, and treasured. Your plan sounds perfect, a combination of save and toss.

    • Thank you for reminding me that once they were “new, selected and bought, and treasured”, I love the ide that someone once bought them, thought long and hard about what they needed, how to pay fo rthem, where to get the best ones. Thank you fo rmaking me think around this !

  • How fortunate this shed passed to someone who appreciates its place in time.
    I think you should keep the photo (as homage to the former owner) and add one of your own to encourage the next gardener to do the same. Imagine what wonderful history this tradition could provide over time!

    • Another great idea! I hadn’t thought about adding photos, no wthat, if done over time would be a superb bit of social history/anthropology. like a walk through time, using the people as the markers. I just love blogging – so many ideas to share. Thank you!
      It’s rainy and cold and bluerrgh here, I’m imagining a bright blue warm Florida day, imaginations come in useful don’t they 🙂

  • Hi Claire, I would definitely use it and make it yours. That way the shed will develop. Those things the previous person left behind that are useful, use. I am sure he would love to know that someone who appreciates his tools is using them.

  • I think I’m slightly envious of your lovely shed with all its memories! Maybe your first job should be making that cup of tea – and enjoying it while you make plans for how best to use your new space.

  • I almost felt you whispering as you shared the photos of what represented the previous owners gathered treasures. It doesn’t quite feel like yours yet, and you were just peeking in on someone else! He probably never thought of his things as treasures, only the tools that were familiar and served his purposes, but I think we all hold our favorite implements as very dear. The state of their care often indicates something of our personality. Do we require “new” at the slightest sign of age? Do we make do with less? I think of my dad’s tools…some of them are so old and if we even suggest he might like something new he scoffs! There’s something special about that kind of thinking. I’m sure you’ll begin to sort it out and make way for more of “you” in the shed, but this is a lovely post to honor someone who loved the allotment for a long time. It was lovely to see the photos, Claire. I get a little sad when I think of people moving on and unable to perform their favored activities. But you’re kind of taking the torch and carrying it forward!

    • HI Debra, I think your dad is right to scoff ! old tools were often very well made, and I think we (as in 21st century we) jump too readily into buying new stuff. Just think of the favour we are doing the environment when we ‘mend and make do’!
      It is always a sad business when someone has to leave the allotments, usually it is age and ill health, sometimes people move to other areas or give up after a short time, but it’s the ‘old timers’ I feel for most

  • Looking at the drawers, tools stacked over each other, brooms leaning against the wall, reminded me of my basement cleanup after my dad passed away. I had thought I’d have to sell the house in a short period so over the course of 1 1/2 months, the entire basement was emptied ruthlessly. Plans changed and in retrospect I wished I had kept more things than I did but ultimately, the cleanup was needed.

    I’m sure he’ll be happy to have the photos back though I doubt his wife, if he has one, would want to have the shoes back. She probably tossed them and he brought them to the shed to save them. At least he didn’t wear them into the garden muck as my dad would have. 🙂

    I love the teacup sans saucer. Such a lovely feminine touch amid all that rusty metal and wood handled tools.

    • That’s such a tough call when a parent or loved one dies and you have to decide what to keep and what to give away. I remember well having to do it with my mum’s stuff – I still have some things, but others I simply had to give away. I guess it’s the memories that are the most important and not the actiual items.

  • What an adventure into the past! Thank you for sharing your little time capsule with us. Keeping photos of the treasures you have found will only make your changes all the sweeter!

  • What a perfectly delightful shed – and the items inside will be yearning for use! There will be a lot of love in this little shed and you’ll soon be topping it up with your own. Maybe plant the shoes up with herbs and keep them at the door rather than throw them away 🙂

  • Absolutely stunning photos and you are scared to enter a competition??? Are you kidding me???
    I love every one of them – a kettle like that my grandma had. My favorite shots are the draw and the cup. You have such a great eye for details.
    This post is so beautiful written and posted – it has so much humbleness for a load of old rubbishes – you mad it so beautiful and meaningful. What a talent you’re!

  • Your posts are more and more heart felt with each passing one. You are in the writing groove- time for a book! I think you have captured the essence of the spirit of the shed. Take care, BAM

  • A wonderful, gentle post for an early and quiet Sunday afternoon here . . .My suggestion would be to do nothing awhile except make room for the things you have to bring in for the allotment to work . . . With your sensitivity the items, one and all, will tell you whether they want to stay or are ready to go . . . 🙂 !

  • your photos are a tribute to the life you sense in the shed, soft whispering colours and tools nestling privately, no doubt startled by the light from the open door … but it must not remain a museum piece, life wants to move and change, the tools need using, the personal things removing, let your life flow in and touch it Claire, with the reverence you feel and your appreciation fo the new space it will transform into just what you need 🙂

    • Hi christine, I’ve actually started using a couple of bits like the spade, a good old digging spade. It needs a bit of TLC but will last me well ! Life goes on doesn’t it, but I did want to show you all my little treasures !

  • oh how lovely it is! What a nice tribute. I don’t know what I’d do! I’d love to keep it as it is, yet at the same time, I’d want to make it my own… We’ll have to wait and see what you chose to do 🙂

  • HI Claire .. hey, I have a pair of rusting clippers and a plough or is it a furrowing machine?? They belonged to my dh’s grandfather and are quite old. “one of these days” I’ll be using them in a garden feature. Lovey shed …photos ..time for dusting, organizing, making it your own. With respect for the former gardener, of course. He would understand your need to make the space your own. Can I see strings of garlic drying overhead next summer? Brightly coloured peppers too?

  • I love walking into a space and being able to get a sense of the thoughts and activities that went on there. You’ve given me that feeling, with your beautiful photos. I’m so pleased it’s you, who honors that history, who will be making the changes that will make the space work for you. Thanks, Claire!

  • A spell indeed! What a beautiful, haunting post — and your photos captured the stillness of time. I’m sure that you will cast your own wonderful spell over the place. Be well!

  • Talk about leaving everything behind. When he was done, he was done and I can only wonder about the story that goes with each abandoned item. You should get busy writing it!

  • Oh, that is a difficult choice! It is beautiful as is, but I would imagine the previous owner would want it to be useful again.

  • What a beautiful post… and wonderful photos… it felt like looking at a fly in amber, or peeping into Captain Scott’s hut in the Antarctic..a precious place, delivered into your guardianship, and it sounds, delivered into the right pair of hands ; hands that will treasure and understand the integrity, the history and the meaning of all those tools and implements which so faithfully served their owner…

    • A fly in amber – what a beautiful image to draw for me Valerie, thank you !
      And not content with one great image you give me Scott of the Antartic 🙂

  • It appears that you have preserved a bit of history through both your words and your photo documentation. I agree with a comment above about old tools needing a purpose. I dab of oil, a brushing with some steel wool or a light sanding and they are ready for their duties. Well done!

  • Funny for you to say that you don’t think a gardener would want your old junk… and yet you find it hard to dispose of the previous gardeners “junk.” Granted, there may well be some items that need to be sent to the rubbish, but most of the tools just need some oiling, and a good scrubbing off of the accumulated rust. As for the shoes, well, if it were me, I would fill them with soil and plant them in posies! Clair, this was such a lovely post! ~Lynda

    • That is funny when I think of it Lynda! I’m going to take some bruches and oil up with me an dget cleaning ! Ithink though that the shoes have to go 🙂

  • Hi Claire! I didn’t imagine you’d found all that stuff inside the shed! I wonder why this old man left everything behind like that. He might not need the tools anymore but the framed pictures look like sweet memories to me. It’s weird.
    I guess I would have lingered amongst that stuff for a while, like you did, but at the end the practical part of me would have won and had me getting rid of all that stuff except for the tools and the things that could be useful. Now the place is yours and you are supposed to get hold of it.

    • I suppose he doesn’t have a garden so left the tools, but turf photo I don’t understand either.
      To be honest I’m looking forward to cleaning and using some of the tools!

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