Posted by: MummyTravels | March 7, 2012

Down among the garlic growers – Isle of Wight

Given that the thought of fish was making me feel queasy, and I’d packed a stash of crackers in case of morning sickness – or all-day nausea in my case – there might have been more obvious places to stay while eight weeks pregnant than on a garlic farm.

But as well as having six self-catering holiday cottages to choose from, collectively known as Mersley Farm, complete with roaring log fires, comfy beds and gorgeous views, you get to stay on a part of the Isle of Wight which has been inhabited for the past 8,000 years.

To discover more of the Garlic Farm’s intriguing past, I hopped aboard one of the tractor trailors to take a tour with owner Colin – whose own history includes selling sweetcorn to Bob Dylan at the original Isle of Wight festival. On the site, they’ve found everything from a retired Roman centurion’s brooch, Saxon jewellery and an Elizabethan belt buckle, plus evidence of several round Iron Age huts, along with the discovery they were trading with Roman Gaul long before the Empire invaded in 42AD, and even buttons from soldiers’ tunics dating to the Napoleonic wars.

In between the fields of cornflowers, corn marigolds and vegetables like asparagus, you can still see thousand-year-old tracks, along with ancient hedgerows, and a lot more unexpectedly, narcotic thorn apples growing wild. Otherwise known as datura stramonium, the seeds can leave those who try them paralysed.

And while the farm’s asparagus crop is one of the earliest in the country, it’s the garlic which sets it apart. First brought to the island following the pleas of the Free French squadron stationed there, it’s used in a string of sauces and chutneys, with around 15 varieties grown, including elephant garlic. Even if I wasn’t about to try the garlic beer.

Declaration: My trip was arranged through Tourism South-East

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