Our Rocombe Valley Family History
My father was a market gardener and started the farm from scratch in 1955 having previously been in partnership with one of his brothers this ultimately failed, and he went to Bicton College and studied horticulture.
When he finished there with what little money he had he brought a few seeds and managed to start renting part of one of the fields we now own! He had no transport at first so had to carry any produce down a lane to a neighbour who had a wholesale vegetable delivery round.
Eventually he managed to earn enough money to buy a small van and put big chunky tyres on the back to get around the fields and lanes. He worked incredibly hard and was able to buy some land on the other side of the valley.
Over many years of hard work he eventually brought most of the fields in the surrounding area and ended up with 85 acres of land. He also built his own house on it. He did this by growing vegetables which were sold to local wholesalers that supplied shops in Torquay, Paignton, Brixham, Newton Abbot and Bovey Tracey.
Occasionally he would travel to Bristol with cauliflowers if there were problems selling locally. (See the picture, I think the local constabulary would have something to say about that today!)
In 1962 he went up to Bristol with some parsnips which he had managed to dig up out of the frozen ground. They made good money as there was very little available at the time due to such terrible weather. Although he was a very good vegetable grower he was also an expert at growing anemones.
These are very hardy flowers that will flower through the winter from September – May on a good season as long as there wasn’t a freeze up with easterly winds as this killed them from time to time. But most years this didn’t happen here in Devon. These would be sent by train and in more recent years by lorry to Covent Garden in London also to Birmingham and occasionally to Nottingham were they would be sold.
He had a very good reputation with the flower wholesalers in these markets and his anemones where in great demand. A huge amount of work went into sending these flowers after being picked. The stems needed washing then they needed to be bunched into bunches of 10s or 12s and after they were packed into boxes of about 30 or 36 bunches per box, these boxes were then tied with string into threes and labelled with destination details before delivery. Since those days the market has changed due to the expansion of supermarkets and most of the wholesalers and shops gone.
The market for cut flowers has changed with foreign flowers coming in from all over the world. Because of this we know keep cattle and sheep on the land and have diversified with fishing lakes and luxury camping, probably how you find yourself visiting this site now!
Pre – Hunt Rocombe Valley!
People have lived in the peaceful and scenic Rocombe valley for thousands of years.
In the 19th century William Pengelly, who excavated Kents Cavern, excavated an adjacent field and found a saddle quern stone which is in Torquay museum, and in a trench found shells pottery and skeletons.
A recent archaeological dig organised by Torquay Museum including use of geophysics found evidence of walls underground. A further dig found more pottery and shells which appear to be Iron Age or Romano-British in date. Another saddle quern stone found has recently been found and is set for the museum.