Hot on the heels of The Great British Sewing Bee, this week saw the start of the BBC’s much publicised new gardening program The Big Allotment Challenge. Now I have to confess I was bit indifferent to it, so much hype can do that to you, and didn’t watch it when it aired on Tuesday evening, however browsing through social media yesterday I was so surprised at the mostly negative comment that I caved in and watched it last night instead.
Presented by Fern Britten the idea of the program is simple, nine pairs of gardeners are given an empty patch of ground and a greenhouse and whilst they are told what to grow, how they decide to plan their plot is up to them. They then have four months to cultivate it from seed until ‘Show Day’ arrives when they compete in three different challenges under the banners of grow, make and eat.
This week they had to present three perfectly matched radishes, six stems of sweet peas, a hand tied bouquet, a fruit jam and a fruit curd. Very much along the lines of a traditional horticultural show.
Most of the criticism seems to be around the lack of authenticity, gorgeous location and almost Disneyesque presentation of the plots but really was it ever going to be about allotments as we all know them? Even I have no interest in watching someone clearing up weeds and potting on for an hour and I’m mad keen. Also with prime time scheduling of course they will be looking for viewing figures in the millions rather than the thousands, so it needs a wider appeal.
I also think a big part of the problem is that there’s such a lack of programs about gardens and gardening in general that when one comes along the weight of expectation is so huge that people are bound to be disappointed on some level.
To my mind the program was utterly charming and has great potential to encourage new gardeners. With rain forecast for Sunday if your looking for an hour of light entertainment give it a go. It’s sunny and there’s not a slug in sight.
If you have watched it or decide to over the weekend I’d love to know your thoughts.
Available on BBC i Player here.
Get to know the contestants and read more about the show here.