A couple who celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary yesterday (August 6) have spoken about how the secret of marital bliss.

When Gene and Alf Harding met six decades ago, in 1956, Elvis Presley had first entered the US charts, Morocco declared its independence, and the Suez Crisis broke out.

But all those concerns were far away from the new couple who met while working on a farm in Chilcomb, near Winchester.

“Alf was a herdsman,” recalls Gene, 79, “and I bottled milk for the Winchester Co-op, and reared calves.”

While Gene was an old hand on the farm, all her family working in the industry, Alf’s father was a bus driver. But working together on the farm, love blossomed.

“We just got friendly on the farm,” says Alf, 85. “We had a lot in common. Then we just worked from there.”

After four years, and many memories, together, Alf finally worked up the nerve to propose to Gene. “He asked my mum and dad for permission,” he remembers. “It was the thing to do in those days; I don’t think it is anymore!”

However, the weather didn’t want to play along. “It rained so much that day it lifted manhole covers!” Alf continues.

After marrying, they headed off to Weymouth for their honeymoon where they stayed in a local guest house. Fortunately, the bad weather didn’t follow them, and they went back again 50 years later to commemorate the occasion.

Returning from their honeymoon, however, they lived in a country idyll; a small cottage on the farm where they were soon joined by boys Wayne and Adrian in 1962 and 1964. Gene stopped working to raise her young family, which was later joined by Rachel in 1975.

After moving around, between different farms over the intervening decades, they finally settled at Clapford in 1979. While Alf would continue on the farm, Gene went back to work, but this time, on the shop floor of Tesco, where she would stay for 21 years.

When the new millennium rolled around, Gene and Alf both decided to slow down, and moved to Andover. “I’ve kept myself busy,” says Alf, “growing veg and doing the flowers. Gene meanwhile, has been helping elderly residents ever since. Even in lockdown, she was “enjoying doing some knitting,” which she used to raise money for charity

So, what’s their advice for other couples wanting to stay together for over six decades. “You’ve just got to work at a marriage, and give into it,” Alf says. “My Mrs looks after me pretty well, and you’ve got to work to make it work!”

Gene, however, has a slightly different view. “I don’t know if we’re just the lucky ones!” she says.

Here’s to many more years of happiness for Gene and Alf.