The Watercress Beds
Tom Coombes was one of a team of men working in the Watercress Beds, and it was a team. Tending the river from the top of the village to the bottom, that was from the Pond at West Farm down to Church Lane. Once a month they would start at the Pond on a Saturday morning. Each had a scythe and they cut and cleaned the stream of weeds. The weeds would float on downstream until they stopped where the stream runs under the road. Then the men would wheelbarrow it off for disposal. Besides growing and cutting the cress when in season, they used to trim the banks and cut the hedges around the cress beds.
After Tom retired and was living in the Poplar Estate he used to go into the Poplar Inn for a pint of ale and a chat with his friends. Brian Kendall was one of them. Brian lived in the cottage where Tom’s mother-in-law lived years before, now called Queens Cottage. Brian was very artistic in more ways than one. Two of his interests were picture painting and wrought iron work.
Brian knew that Tom used to work on the railway before he worked in the cress beds. He also knew that Tom was a bell-ringer at Fovant Church and had also been a Church Warden for many years. One day Brian came into the Pub and presented Tom with the Walking Stick, which had been made from articles acquired from these three subjects. A bolt from the railway line and a piece of metal taken from the Church bells at the time when they were sent away for re-tuning, was made into the Ram’s head. The Stick was cut from the Black Thorn Hedging around the Water Cress Beds.
Tom was thrilled with the stick and it is valued by the family.
Bryan Lee, Tom’s Son in Law