Radio 2’s allotment guru loses his spring seedlings in greenhouse blaze
HE is known to Radio 2 listeners as the allotment enthusiast who really knows his onions.
But Terry Walton, a regular on the Jeremy Vine Show, was left looking more red-faced than green-fingered when he accidentally burned down his greenhouse, destroying his spring crops.
The 73-year-old Welshman has spent more than a decade giving gardening tips to the nation from his allotment on a Welsh hillside in the Rhondda Valley – and has even published books on the subject.
He was using a paraffin heater to protect his plants from cold weather, but it sparked a fire in the greenhouse in his back garden, ruining his young spring tomatoes, parsnips and onions.
Mr Walton had put the burner in place on the evening of March 25 after hearing a BBC frost alert –but hours later, neighbours alerted him to the blaze.
He said: ‘ The forecaster was talking about -1 and -2C temperatures. I thought I better put a double burner on tonight because this place is absolutely chock-ablock with tender plants.’
Mr Walton was settling down at 8pm when he heard someone banging on his dining room window. ‘It was the young lad who lives in the house in front,’ he said. ‘He was up in his back bedroom and saw the greenhouse all in orange glow.’
The neighbour grabbed a hose to put out the fire but in less than half an hour the entire greenhouse had burned down.
Mr Walton said his vegetables had been growing well thanks to the recent warm weather. ‘The tomatoes were settling in and they were about four inches high – I was looking to them every day with great admiration,’ he said. ‘I had 72 onion plants and they are the best ones I have grown for many a year and they were only a fortnight from going out.’ Mr Walton also had 60 parsnips, planted just the week before. His kind-hearted neighbours have now rallied around to offer him their surplus veg to plant.
Mr Walton said he was even offered plastic trays and inserts by the police officer who called round after the blaze.
He is now carefully rebuilding his treasured greenhouse ready for a spot of replanting. Mr Walton, a father of two who has battled prostate cancer, has kept a plot in South Wales for more than 60 years and started when he was just four, helping his father. He retired in 2001, having previously worked as an engineer and managing director. In 2006 his allotment was adopted by BBC Radio 2 and he became an unlikely media star.
Cult figure: Radio 2 host Jeremy Vine with Terry Walton Aftermath: His burnt-out greenhouse in the Rhondda Valley