The (apocalypse) Chilli Tunnel
Last year, Langholm Social Club (which is so ‘Phoenix nights’ it’s not funny) offered us the use of an overgrown allotment to put a polytunnel on; the ‘Community Growing Fund’ gave us a grant for the tunnel itself; it was supposed to be finished last autumn but then someone (bizarrely, since there’s no crime here) nicked the tunnel cover. Scottish winter weather delayed it further, and we finally got it finished 2 days before lockdown.
Since then, working in isolated shifts, we’ve turned it into what seems to be the largest collection of chilli varieties in Britain – 175 at present, with members still to drop their ‘uniques’ off we can do 200 – this year! We’ve got the 7 hottest chillies in the world including the current world record holder and the current ‘pretender to the throne, chillies grown from seeds sent or brought from 35 countries, a challenger for the 402-gram world record ‘largest chilli and every colour, shape size and heat you can imagine.
And it's also the worlds’ most half-arsed botanic garden; 106 non-chilli species, mostly donated by locals. We did a little ‘exercise’ during lockdown to cheers people up – just planted any seeds we could get (everything from watermelons to cabbage) – left the seedlings at the end of the path for people to pick up, keep em all busy; and they left theirs in exchange.
We even have residents Tunnel sparrows and a blackbird, who were born under the eaves of the social club during lockdown and kind of took up home.
The whole thing cost Chilli Club less than 40 quid. Aside from the site and the tunnel, we built a ‘garden’ totally out of reclaimed, and recycled materials – everything from dug up slabs and cobbles, sawn-off fence posts, half a cable drum and a glass cabinet from a China shop – all donated by locals. We even have a miniature rock-art thingy using cobbles that mysteriously appeared on site one day!