The Big Allotment Challenge – Review

So we’ve had sewing, we’ve had baking and now, we’ve got gardening. Jane Austen would have been so pleased. What could be next? The Great British ‘Stick and Hoop’ Challenge? Big ‘Basket Weaving’? The ‘Tapestry’ Take Over?

Fresh from her (secret) stomach-stapling scandal, was the newly glam, Fern Britton. Her endeavour to shake off the mumsy vibe has culminated in skinny jeans and a tousled blonde hair-do. I don’t like it. Bring back cuddly old Fern, not this tiny-stomached vamp.

The premise for this new show is exactly the same as ‘Bake Off’ but instead of a kitchen it’s, well, an allotment. Ok. I’m in.

Almost immediately it became clear this programme was made entirely so we could all play Innuendo Bingo at home. ‘Look at the size of that’, ‘get your radishes out’ etc. For the immature amongst us, it was very hard to watch.

Kicking off with patches of empty mud and then fast-forwarding 15 weeks to abundant plants and flowers spilling lusciously over every tiny bit. How satisfying. Let the challenges commence.

First it was radishes. “Easy to grow, but difficult to perfect”, were the wise words of judge, Jim (Ex -Royal Gardener). Fern’s role as presenter is to swish her new hair and body around, simper over vegetables and seemingly bore us to death with detailed narration about how to grow things, when we we’re all just trying to enjoy some harmless innuendo. Shhh Fern.

Next, it was a Sweet Pea bouquet and after a very hot summer, this was going to be tricky (apparently). They all fuddled around with twine trying to meet the criteria which was ‘a creative use of sweet peas and complementary flowers’. Shaun and Liz, who the programme editors clearly had it in for from the beginning, made a ghastly ‘mish mosh of flowers’ which narrowly escaped having carrots added to it. What? The tasteless, vulgar swines. Jonathan Mosely (flower design expert) was disgusted.

Finally, the jam and curd challenge. Having watched it and rewound it, and having had Fern drearily explain it, I still don’t think there’s a difference between jam and curd. Sorry. But anyway, the pairs boiled and bubbled their various fruit combinations into jars. Poor old Shaun and Liz made tomato jam, as well as a heinous curd, which expert Thane clearly thought was an absolute disgrace. They were for the chop and the accomplished winners were identi-bearded pals, Gary and Pete.

Overall, it was a bit flat, with judges looking for uniformity and perfection. I’d have preferred they look radishes with the Queen’s image growing right through the middle like a stick of rock. Or sweet peas shaped like Lady Gaga. Hopefully in upcoming episodes, there’ll be a bit more drama. Sabotage. Caterpillars. Maybe a flood.

Allotmenting is really a solitary, philosophical sort of thing, not lending that well to the ‘challenge’ genre. Plus, no contestants seem to warm much to this new version of our beloved Fern. Or maybe it was just me.

First published by Cambridge News


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