The single-track road dips at a stream cloaked by nettles and blackberry bushes. Across the bridge, up a gentle incline, lie more plots of land planted with fruits and vegetables and tended by the amateur gardeners who blossom across this nation.
The plot beside the stream is typical: Beds of corn and beans, trees bearing unripe apples and pears. A pile of compost under a blue tarpaulin awaits a rake. A few weeds are poking up.
The owner of this particular plot could be forgiven for taking a back seat to nature. Jeremy Corbyn – Labour parliamentarian, leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, and, after June’s election, a serious contender to run Britain – lately has more pressing matters to attend to.
While serving in Parliament, Mr. Corbyn has found time to farm his allotment, as community gardens are known here. He mostly comes on Sundays, say fellow gardeners, and gets to work, rain or shine.
Three plots uphill, Jim Flanagan is forking his first potatoes of the season. As a retiree who comes on weekdays, he rarely sees his famous neighbor, but he admires what he’s done on his plot. “He knows what he’s doing alright. But he hasn’t got the time,” he says.
In a nation of gardeners, where TV call-in shows dispense tips by the bushel, Corbyn’s pastime is run-of-the-mill. But it fits his popular image as a modest, unmanicured politician who prefers his bicycle to a chauffeured car, a vegetarian who makes his own jam from the fruits of his labor.
During the election campaign, he presented a jar of his apple-blackberry jam to the hosts of a popular daytime show. In another interview, Corbyn was asked if he might prefer to stick to his allotment rather than occupy 10 Downing Street, the prime minister’s official residence.
“It’s possible to do both because if you grow plants and look after your garden, it gives you time to think, it gives you a connection with the natural world and makes you stronger in everything else you do,” he told Channel 4 News.
A NATION OF GARDENERS
Corbyn-as-gardener is fodder for critics who see him as a political naif not fit to run the government. One unkind comparison made is to Chauncey Gardiner, the simpleton gardener played by Peter Sellers, a British actor, whose gnomic utterances propel him towards the US presidency in the 1979 film “Being There.”
Yet in a time of populist distrust of establishment politicians, the plainspoken…