The Big Allotment Challenge: Is It Starting to Grow on You?

Back for another series, this peculiarly British gardening show wouldn't really work anywhere else in the world. Truth be told, it scarcely works here. Which makes it all the odder why it has returned to our screens.

But where's the plot? It's a question asked of many a TV programme these days. With some, it's almost non-existent.

The Big Allotment Challenge on BBC2 is different. It's all about plot. Glorious little plots of land, where the green-fingered give life to a never ending stream of blooms and produce.

At the end of the run, the same earth can presumably be used to bury the majority of the viewing demographic who are probably approaching that age when they're looking for a decent plot; a final resting place from where their remains can fertilise the ground in the name of zinnias, while their skeletons can spend all eternity looking up the gently billowing skirt of Fern Britton. Does that bush need a trim?

Fern, of course, is tailor-made as the presenter. Her name alone qualifies her for the role. Maybe that's why they picked her. After all, who else could they have chosen? Daisy Lowe, Poppy Delevingne, Lily Allen or Holly Willoughby? Dear God, not Holly Willoughby, she's everywhere. She's the hosting equivalent of ivy. It's almost impossible to get rid of her. Although don't bet on her taking over from Fern at some point in the future. She's done it once before with This Morning, so she'll have no qualms about doing it again.

Back for another series, this peculiarly British gardening show wouldn't really work anywhere else in the world. Truth be told, it scarcely works here. Which makes it all the odder why it has returned to our screens.

Hardly a ratings winner the first time around, there are now a few changes to the format. Previously where those participating came in twos, they've been pruned down to one. However, each week the challenges are still divided into three: Grow, Make and Eat. They continue to be presided over by the same judges.

Responsible for Grow is Jim Buttress. Heading up Make is Jonathan Moseley. And Eat is looked after by Thane Prince. All are experts in their chosen field.

Going by the episode I saw (the second of six), the main change is that it appears to have got a hell of a lot racier and considerably more provocative. Perhaps it's something they've put in the watering can. I'm assuming liquid Viagra.

Legendary porn star John Holmes, mystical faith healer Grigori Rasputin and fictional Mafia hit-man Frank de Marco can all count themselves lucky that they're no longer with us. No shrinking violets - or shrinking anything else in the trouser department - even they might have felt slightly intimidated, almost short changed, if they'd tuned in. Not because they were any great shakes as gardeners (although they certainly did like to spread their seed around), but because of the size of the specimens on display.

Those average men among the viewing audience would have been powerless to disguise their disappointment, rummaging in their pants and shifting uncomfortably in their seats as they surreptitiously tried to change channels as soon as possible to avoid unfavourable comparisons and embarrassment, especially from their nearest and dearest. "Yours isn't that big, is it Colin?" The missus unable to conceal her regret at what she'd missed out on for all these years.

The latest Grow challenge featured, yes, you guessed it, cucumbers, which were definitely both showers and growers. The aforementioned Frank de Marco's nickname was the Cucumber - for obvious reasons - but his was nothing compared to these big boys.

What would Percy ( as in Thrower, naturally) have had to say about the whole proceedings?

Not surprisingly, it rapidly turned into a farce; a sort of Carry on Gardening. The innuendos, whether intentional or not, came faster than an over excited teenager.

Rekha, a terribly serious Company Director said without a trace of humour: "My main concern isn't the length, it's the circumference. They look too fat".

Meanwhile, Alexandra, a classics scholar, polished her cucumber, running a cloth up and down its entire impressive length. The camera couldn't tear itself away from the task at hand as if waiting for some kind of climax to occur. Fortunately for those of a genteel disposition, it didn't

Gloating, she told anyone who'd listen that Alan, another allotmenteer, was not particularly happy with his. Which is just what every man wants the nation to hear. To further humiliate him, she added: "I think he's had some size issues". Whereupon, she collapsed into fits of laughter.

Suddenly Fern chirped up with her two pennyworth stating that they should be fresh, firm and of uniform thickness. Was she talking from experience?

She then informed the amateurs: "It's time to see what Jim makes of your cucumbers". I'm not sure I'd want someone of Jim's maturity examining mine, but to be honest I'm no longer certain I'm going on about cucumbers.

Under closer inspection, not many of them fared that well. Alexandra was told that for show size, they should be 10-12 inches, but hers were way longer than that. This only caused her to smile more. A smile that may never leave her face.

As it turned out, Rob, who works for Virgin Atlantic as cabin crew, was awarded Best of Show for his slightly unusual yellow ones.

Strangely ( I wonder why?), I seem to have little space left to mention the other challenges which involved larkspur for Make and syrups and lollies for Eat.

Thane explained to Fern that she couldn't wait to get her lips round those. I think she was talking about the frozen popsicles. Frankly though, within the confines of the all new and super sexed up Big Allotment Challenge, it was practically impossible to tell.

Heaven only knows what the next episode holds in store. I for one will be watching. Kleenex at the ready, just in case.


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