Gerald Stratford - Cotswold's gardening social media sensation
- Credit: Elizabeth Stratford
Cotswolds-born Gerald Stratford may be 73 years old, but he’s become a social media sensation, with over 300,000 followers on Twitter,, and now he’s published his first book, Big Veg.
I was born in 1948, in a farmworker’s cottage in the little hamlet of Worton, Oxfordshire. I don’t actually remember the event (I suppose it was a little while ago...) but I’ve been told my grandmother helped as Mum gave birth to me.
The cottage was quite big, but it was very old. We had a large inglenook fireplace that I could almost walk into. There was only a cold-water tap in the kitchen. We didn’t have any hot water at all so to have a bath, we had to boil the kettle on the range and fill up the tub. The toilet was outside. But that’s how things were, back then.
I am the youngest of six children. I had two sisters, and three brothers: Rosebud, Nancy, Ralph, Brian and Arthur. My dad had worked as a farmworker in his earlier life, but throughout my childhood he was quite poorly with a lung condition. When Dad was ill Nancy became a second mother, cooking and looking after us.
On Sunday afternoons, one of our neighbours would gather us kids up and take us on walks across the surrounding fields. In the spring, we would pick wildflowers, primroses, bluebells and, my favourites, violets. I can smell them now. I would take them home for my mum – what an angel I was!
In the summer, everyone in the village would play cricket on the meadow next to the cottages. Boys and girls, and mums and dads. We loved cricket. On a Sunday evening, we would walk across the fields to a little village called Begbroke and a pub called The Rising Sun that always smelt of polish and beer. Mum and Dad would go inside and have a couple of drinks, and one of them would bring us each a bottle of Coca-Cola and a bag of Smith’s crisps. The bag would have a little packet of salt inside and you would sprinkle the salt on the crisps. That was a special treat.
In the autumn, we would pick blackberries and Mum would make blackberry-and-apple pie for pudding.
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And then in the winter, my siblings and I would go out and collect wood for the fire. We would never cut trees down; we just collected dead wood that had fallen to the ground. I was sometimes trusted to use the axe to chop the wood when we got home.
Gerald Stratford’s book Big Veg is out now in hardback. £14.99 from Headline.