I knew it was dreamed up as a Marketing Strategy, but thought it was from the 60s [and the book I was enjoying was firmly set mid-50s] It appears that a farmer, Richard Trehane, of the Cheese Bureau declared in 1956: "English cheese and beer have for centuries formed a perfect combination enjoyed as the Ploughman’s Lunch.” So my book was quite accurate!
Richard Trehane then went on to be chairman of the Milk Marketing Board [his farming father had been a founder member of the MMB in 1933] and was involved in promoting the phrase Drinka Pinta Milka Day.
What an insightful chap - in postwar Britain, still getting over rationing, to come up with two clever ideas to encourage the public to eat more of our dairy products and assist the farming industry to get back on its feet.
What else did this thoughtful guy do? [he looks very pensive in this photo from the National Portrait Gallery. Perhaps he is contemplating his knighthood] Well - Sir Richard continued working at his father's family farm, in the little village of Hampreston. You may not have heard of this place- but it is less than 10 minutes on my bicycle from home, just the other side of the A31. The village church goes back more than six centuries - and although St Mary's Ferndown is now the main CofE church in the area, this is still considered to be 'The Parish of Hampreston.
I cycled up there in the sunshine yesterday afternoon [Bob was busy getting ready for Evening Service at church]
The church has a very large churchyard, with row upon row of tombstones. I walked round looking at inscriptions - some recent [the late wife of Jim, my dear next door neighbour] others much older. Many sad ones for sons killed in the wars - WW2, WW1, the Boer Wars, and even before that, fighting in India in the mid 19th C. I watched a little rabbit waiting against the wall - he didn't move till he heard the click of the camera!
And against the wall, looking across fields to the farm, was the tombstone of Sir Richard and his wife Elizabeth.
His inscription reads "An inspiration to farmers throughout the world" [Hers reads 'a friend to the arts']
The Trehanes still farm locally - and have a nursery specialising in camellias and azaleas. It was also the Trehanes [if I understood correctly, Richard's brother David] who was the first to cultivate blueberries commercially in the UK. He responded to an ad from a man in British Columbia in 1952, offering free blueberry plants to anyone willing to grow them.
Only four people responded! Initially Sainsburys stocked them, then M&S, then it really took off.
They do PYO and also sell berries at the shop. Bob bought me a punnet in July - I must say they are particularly fine, juicy blueberries!
But having discovered all this in Hampreston [the church itself was locked, that will have to be explored another day] I cycled home, stopping en route to pick a few free blackberries from the hedgerows.
I froze half, and spooned the remainder into sponge mix to make fruity little fairy cakes.
So here's another Ferndown Fact - the marketing concept of the Ploughman's Lunch started right here! I wonder how many of the residents know that?
I think I shall go and have a drink of milk, and raise a toast in honour of Sir Richard...