I am far too young to have ‘dug for Britain’ in the last bash, but I am laying copious plans to go for it this time around.

I have recently been swept up in a torrent of feverish ruralism, unknown to the startled members of my family. I am making plans to transform flower beds into brassica farms, lawns to rhubarb patches. My reading matter has turned from the concise history of Burgundian wines and the Michelin guide to restaurants of Tuscany to a dust-covered tome, purchased with considerable optimism in 1990, namely the Readers Digest compendium; ‘Food from your Garden’. With line drawn illustrations reminiscent of a Beano comic and a range of tips from mole trapping and slug despatching to vine training and asparagus bleaching, I have entered a Narnia-like universe. My fantasy dinner guests have now become Felicity Kendal, Richard Briars, and Pop Larkin from The Darling Buds of May.

Typical of me, I am utterly disinterested in the erudite practicality of a Titmarsh or a Don, mine is the dream of a ready-made cornucopia, packed full of nature’s verdant, edible bounty. Nevertheless I am measuring up the paddock in readiness for that epitome of self sufficiency;

the raised bed, vegetable garden!

Since moving to Norfolk I have avoided mad cow disease and swine flu, hay fever and nettle rash, but the notion of ‘home grown’ has suddenly hit me like a bucolic virus. Why I have contracted the bug is somewhat of a mystery. I am a man of unreconstructed passion when it comes to both food and wine, but to date this zeal has been sated by the odd wine tasting in Provence or a plate of squid, aubergine and fava beans in a sea food restaurant on the edge of the Aegean, never before have I had the desire to produce the stuff outside my back door.

What subliminal influence could have turned me from aspirational urbane to the cast of the ‘Good Life’? Not just me, the national press is awash with the antidote to financial recession – self sufficiency. Not since World War II have applicant numbers for allotment provision been so high. Thousands of Britains, principally from urban conurbations it must be said, are sat on waiting lists, trowel and dibber in hand, pockets brimming with packets of Suttons seeds and drawing boards awash with funky, state of the art garden sheds.

My own view is a combination of events, a crystallisation if you like of ethereal aspects around us becoming a tangible manifesto. Quite clearly, demand for local sourcing of the food we consume is something of a mantra for the new middle classes, coupled with an almost balletic carbon footprint that only a brief bicycle ride to your allotment can provide. The cry for fresher produce, warts and all, is gaining ground daily, as is the confusion and frustration caused by a surfeit of hypocritical information surrounding genetic modification.

One’s own personal financial standing, real or imagined during our global recession, will turn many an intelligent head to nod sagely at the notion of ‘grow your own’ to offset the spiralling costs of year round imported foodstuffs, however economically sound this philosophy eventually turns out to be.

Allotments, of course, have drifted in and out of fashion throughout history, from Saxon felling of woodland and the early establishment of ‘common land’ during the reign of Elisabeth I, [to graciously allow her subjects to feed themselves] through to the demise of the market gardens under the disgraceful Enclosures Act of the early 19th century. The first and second world wars provided an obvious impetus to grow produce whenever and wherever possible, as importation of food was reduced to a trickle, latterly by German U-Boats.

But whist sitting comfortably in our drawing rooms, polishing off the remains of a Waitrose ready meal, our plasma screens are inviting us too intimately share in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recent survival offerings from his west country idyl. Few herbaceous borders here full of lupins and pansies, but a wealth of healthy growing foodstuffs as far as the camera lens can see. Here we are comforted by Alan Sugar’s  increasingly flawed economic bullying giving way to Hugh’s grow-your-own, pick-your-own philosophy. If you have been fired by Alan at 8.00pm you could be tucking into a healthy salad by 9.00 pm almost free of charge, what could be more inspiring, more saintly?

But Hugh is clearly not just content in putting his own vegetable garden in order, he’s snapping up abandoned land all over the country faster than the Scottish clearances. Council tenants with little more than a car forecourt where their garden should have been, dig alongside local ne’er do wells and prison inmates, all being encouraged to plant for Britain on every available square metre. Acres of common land as well as linear footage of roadside wasteland are being pressed into service once more, all under the benign observance of the local authority. Although my own vegetable and salad beds are not necessarily earmarked for the poor of the parish, the thrill and anticipation of my own future harvest has begun to overtake my otherwise less than productive view of the daily dinner table in the past.

Now if Alan Sugar could create and judge a programme of domestic food production and the success rate thereafter of the competitors’ food provision, what a nerve that would touch in the newly created allotment community, I might even add him to the dinner party.