Tag Archives: brambles

A walk in the woods

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A walk in the woods with Abel, now 16 months old, is another story. I’d greet all the dogs as a matter of course, but he enjoys them to the point of bubbling with laughter; there is disappointment that the brambles are now bare of blackberries, but even so he (and I) appreciate the seasons; puddles are for throwing stones into and exclaiming ‘splash’, or as  near as we can get, while a big pine tree is for hide and seek. Happy Days.

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Foraging

Mrs T brought bags to church on Sunday, intending to gather pine cones for winter fire-lighting. This happens every year, you could almost set your watch by it. And then we got sidetracked.

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Following the success of her apricot jam, Mrs Turnstone has caught the preserving virus  from her daughters and husband. She gathered sloes on the way home, while I threw in rowan berries; with bramley apples the latter made a tart jelly that will go well with lamb or venison (fat chance of that, but I had to pass by on the other side when I saw a road-killed roebuck whilst on holiday!) The sloe and apple jelly will go well with meat – turkey or goose or duck.

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Then while I was at work Mrs T went out  to gather blackberries and elder to add to apples and a few sloes for a hedgerow jelly. Even on her own, she reported, she thoroughly enjoyed herself. Purple fingers! Making this jam 12 years ago in Shropshire started NAIB’s addiction. We threw in rose hips and haws on that occasion; the recipe is flexible.

Oh yes, we gathered pine cones too. It’s as well my brother Chris was not with us; I recall his ambushes over at our old blackberry patch, with cones whizzing part the ear, and knocking pots of berries over; but he did help make the jam when all was gathered in.

Willow, willow, willow

The self-sown willow in Mrs O’s garden is growing on the boundary. this time last year it was inaccessible behind waves of rampant brambles. I have cleared them over the months, although I see a new purple shoot every time I visit as the roots send buds to seek the sun and reclaim the land in leaf and thorn. But what about the willow?

i left it unpruned over the Winter to allow its early Spring flowering. The stems bearing pussy catkins were all too high up to contribute  to the display in Mrs O’s garden or her neighbours’, though they formed part of Mrs T’s Valentine’s bouquet, made up our family Easter Tree and graced the Paschal Candle and Baptismal Water at the Easter Vigil.

Willows, of course, are still exploited for making baskets and hurdles, Last May when I tackled the fallen willow in Wales, (See my post Si vis pacem, pare hortum) the new shoots were already evident, thrusting upwards like Mrs O’s brambles; they helped me determine where to make my cuts.

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No such work had ever been done here, so I brought all stems down to eye level, about six feet high.That was on Good Friday, and now, four weeks later, there are shoots appearing up and down the stems, and all reaching for the sky.

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Seeing such abundance, I almost regret not cutting lower down, but we’ll wait and see the year out as we are. As it happens, my pruning saw is at Miss Turnstone’s new house, where it has plenty to get its teeth into.

And maybe I should investigate basket weaving.

Mistletoe? No!

Mistletoe?

I must have had Christmas on my mind even to entertain the idea for a moment. Well, how could it be mistletoe, growing out of the brick arch just north of Peterborough? It looked the part at first sight: a spherical shrub, branching down as well as up, but it was our old friend Buddleia, beyond easy control above a railway track.

So what will take over the world when humans are gone? Buddleia, brambles, birch, briars? Rats, foxes, jackdaws, gulls, magpies? We’ll never know!

Of Flowers, Foragers, and Fiona.

I should have made a list, said Mrs Turnstone, as we came off the cliff path to stride into the village. Had she done so, the list would doubtless have been longer than I have remembered, but here are some of the flowers in bloom on 26th October, alongside a Cornish cliff path, a salt-sprayed habitat that suits relatively few plants.

  • As Edward Thomas would tell you, the gorse flowers every day of the year. There were two different species of bee in attendance on it.
  • The little daisy also smiles up at us whenever the ground is free of snow. Among its relatives there was camomile edging a ploughland, and assorted dandelion-like flowers whose names I do not know.
  • The close cousins red campion and sea campion.
  • Thrift, another low-growing rock lover, provided a springy mattress when we sat down to dine and then measured our length on the ground to watch the clouds and rest.
  • Brambles had a few sweet berries, leaves turning red, and the odd cluster of pale pink flowers.
  • Invaders from the south, from west and east: the equestrian’s enemy, ragwort, Michaelmas daisies and Russian Vine. That can go on spreading forever, like its relative the sorrel whose lemon flavoured leaves offered this walker a quick refreshment.
  • Pennywort spires among the stones of the Cornish hedges, which are a local variant on drystone walling.
  • A relative, unknown if only to us, of the bugle as well as the bugle itself.
  • We only saw one violet flower, but surely we missed many more by not getting on our knees to seek out these treasures at a field’s edge.
  • Old man’s beard may be a seed head, not a flower, but its exotic glory will last through most of the winter.

There was a bonus for the foragers towards the end of the walk: enough sloes to make the jelly for the Christmas goose, well worth a few scratches! The question arose then: what to do about a jar? We had none to hand in our holiday cottage.

At this point in our conversation we came across Fiona’s Mobile Café, tailor-made to her specification from an old Citroen van. Fiona admired and congratulated us on our harvest. ‘Gin?’ she asked. ‘No, Jelly for the goose’, we said, ‘but we need to find a jar.’ ‘Well, I won’t need to take this one home today’, said Fiona. Thank you Fiona, we are set up!

* And so we were. The jar was just the right size to hold the jelly when I made it the next day. Once again, thank you Fiona!

Here is a picture of Fiona’s café –  http://www.flickr.com/photos/93297327@N05/9048998772/

Sounds of Summer

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I think George could hear it over Skype – the click as the vacuum pulled down the security button on each jar of Mrs Turnstone’s bramble and elder jam. Before long we will be looking for more clean empty jars as we clear the cupboard under the stairs of all we’ve accumulated over the year.

My 5lb of wild plums must wait to be cooked till I’ve raided the sugar aisle in the supermarket. They came from Ash Lane Crossing. All along our stretch of  the old South Eastern Railway the company seems to have planted plum trees in the crossing keepers’ gardens. They survive even when the cottage is long gone, as it is here or at Hamford, where the plums are big and sweet and purple, asking to be pickled. An expedition for another day.

The summer and autumn jams and preserves are already being passed around, extending the common table to family, such as Mrs Turnstone Senior, and friends, like the group we met up with in Wensleydale. One family, one feast, one table, at the root of it all.