“He (Prince Philip) began the exercise in 2006 when he planted more than 300 saplings of hazel and oak impregnated with truffle spores at £15 apiece. He knew that the royal estate in Norfolk was well suited for the fungi because of its abundance of alkaline soil. He was introduced to the truffle-hunting with dogs by his uncle Earl Mountbatten of Burma on a trip to Italy. His attempt to create a ‘truffiere’ in the Royal Fruit Farm at Sandringham, which yields apples, gooseberries and blackcurrants, had become something of a family joke, as year after year truffle-sniffling dogs failed to root out a thing – until 2018.”
I can only imagine his delight at his success, and no doubt the words, “I told you so,” passed his lips, his eyes glinting with triumph.
We are told that when Prince Philip handed over the management of the Sandringham estate to Prince Charles, he told him “You can bugger about with it now,” while going on to enjoy his own late-life horticultural success by becoming the first person in Britain to cultivate a successful crop of black truffles. It’s quite extraordinary! No wonder Prince Philip was so fond of spending time in Norfolk, it offered him the chance to enjoy his much loved earthly pursuits away from the public glare.
Having heard this tale, I think I know what he means, and Prince Charles may want to regard it as a personal challenge for him to emulate.
I shall look out for black truffles on sale in the Sandringham gift shop!
*Gyles is pictured at a literary event in Ely this week.