emma tingley

The magic of alfresco dining

By Emma Tingley, excerpt reprinted from p.14 of Lindfield Life September 2012

I’m not exaggerating when I say that it really has to be one of the most memorable evenings I’ve had in a long time. Even now when I close my eyes and breathe in deeply, I can recapture the atmosphere and aromas of the night. Some things have an amazing ability to inspire you and my evening with James Gaydon and his friend Charlotte Petts down on her allotment turned out to be one of those moments. I’m not sure how James would describe himself but to me he’s a modern hunter-gatherer. He seems more at home outdoors than in and has an incredible knowledge and passion for creating food from foraging. And Charlotte, a professional gardener, welcomed me on to her allotment as if welcoming me into her home. For this evening, I traded the usual comforts of my sofa for a log seat and an open fire, with a hearty meal in fantastic company under the stars – an allotment dinner.


By the time the main course is ready, the night is drawing in. It’s not the balmy summer evening we’d all been hoping for but somehow it seems more appropriate to be wrapped in a blanket, sitting close to the fire for warmth. I’m not the most adventurous of diners so would not have chosen rabbit stew but, I have to admit, it’s delicious. For dessert we’re treated to Charlotte’s delicious stewed rhubarb, served with custard (practically the only thing on the menu from a shop!). 

It was such a privilege to be a part of one of James and Charlotte’s allotment dinners. By the time the fire was dying down, we’d had a superb evening of food and friendship. By torchlight we finished the evening by leaving no trace of our presence, other than the message I left on the inside of the shed door along with the compliments of previous allotment dinner guests.