If you come to The Garlic Farm, be sure to look for some pure gold we have recently found. Just out in the field three hundred yards from the farm our dedicated metal detectorist ....... found coins of Henry 1st and Edward 2nd helping to confirm that after the Romans left the farm continued to be active through the Medieval period where evidence so far has been very light. But where is the gold you may ask?
Last Saturday at a party in the adjoining ancient woodland to celebrate the arrival of the bluebells in a very late spring, I was talking to a very spry 91 year old. "So pleased to see you have tracked how garlic came to the Island in the war via Lysanders flying in from occupied France."
Yes, it's a great story I said.
Of course, I was there when it happened! She beamed.
There? Yes she said. I was four years as a WAAF in the control tower at RAF Tangmere. There were only two of us to go on duty. We saw all the Lysanders going out with agents and supplies and coming back in. I can recall that sack of garlic coming in. The pilot made a call as soon as he landed to warn its onward recipient. I believe that was to the man in Cowes (Bill Spidy),
As her story unfolded so did my feeling of a moment of pure gold, putting together. slivers of information from 70 years ago.
Where did the original Solent Wight garlic come from? Its origins are here at Cowes on the Isle of Wight. From 1940 to 1945 a squadron of Free French Torpedo boats was stationed in Cowes. They drank at the Painters Pub and regularly complained to the landlord, Bill Spidy, about the apocryphal British wartime diet. By 1942 they yearned for French cooking and the whiff of garlic so Bill Spidy searched the Island for garlic with no success. However he knew some of his RAF pilot friends were flying Lysanders at night, landing in central France to deposit SOE agents and munitions and returning home.
On one of these flights, a sack of Auvergne garlic came back to England and into Bill’s hands on the Island. He lived with his family on a small farm in the centre of the Island and so grew the garlic for the Free French who then felt and smelt like self respecting Frenchmen for the rest of the war.
My parents came to live at Mersley Farm, now The Garlic Farm, in the mid 50s, next door to Bill Spidy’s farm at Little Duxmore. My mother Norah began growing some of her neighbour’s garlic in the kitchen garden. I came home to farm in the mid 70s and, as they say, the rest is history.”
You may well find my recent trek to the Northern Turkey in search for Allium Longicuspis, "The Mother of all Garlic" of some interest - watch below.