Tag Archives: Cornwall

The Forager’s Christmas Presents

The forager shared the fruits of his (and Mrs Turnstone’s) labours over the Festive Time:

walkapples

Apples from ‘Your Company was Much Appreciated’, newly washed.

  • The Chestnuts appeared as a stuffing which pleased our almost vegetarian guest; see post “Cornish and Kentish foraging”. And Thanks to Patrick and Rose Marie.
  • the sloes harvested in Cornwall anointed the goose, helping to flavour the bird; see post “Of Flowers, Foragers, and Fiona”. And thanks to Fiona in the Van.
  • scrumped apples were an important ingredient in the mince pies; see “Your Company Was Much Appreciated” – and Thanks to Mrs T for her company on this and many another walk.
  • loganberry and orange jam was enjoyed by those in the know! See “Foraging again!” And thanks to my long arms that let me reach the topmost fruit!

Cornish and Kentish foraging

29/10

I was beginning to fear that this year the chestnuts for the Christmas goose would have to be bought, as the opportunity to gather them in Kent never quite presented itself. I have not cycled home through the woods this autumn as work has taken me elsewhere. This meant that I missed my favourite crab tree as well.

Last year our god-daughters helped with the harvest on the side of Abbot’s Hill, and they roasted a few by our fire before taking their share home to London. But this year our chestnuts will be Cornish ones. As Patrick, an old school friend, lives in the Duchy with his wife Rosemarie, we took ourselves over to see them, and there along their footpath into town we soon gathered sufficient stuffing to satisfy the discerning Turnstone crew.

There’s just the small matter of peeling them to look forward to. Not good for the fingernails, but it’s a congenial task for a dark autumn evening with the music playing.

The real reason for visiting Truro, of course, was their company. We had not seen them since the time our daughters brought us together again: theirs graduated as a teacher, after teaching ours during her final practice at college; those dozen years – and a great many more – to catch up on; that gave us another blessed day.

Here is last year’s story:

Two lively god-daughters gave us a good excuse for a muddy Autumn walk up Abbott’s Hill. Like moths to a flame, welly boots were drawn to the squidgy puddles, but the girls’ mother had packed a change of clothes; she knows her children. Amy tumbled backwards with all the grace of a ballet-dancing eight-year-old. And did it again.

We had no time to float sticks down the stream; we were out hunting, not for rabbits or squirrels, but for another wild food – chestnuts.

On the way up to the spinney, Juliet was able to identify some of the trees, like the silver birch and oak. We saw the magpies and squirrels busily gathering acorns, but would they have left us any chestnuts? A green woodpecker was so intent on the acorn feast that it merely hopped a few yards from the path as we walked by. A magpie scolded us from the topmost branches; the squirrels just scrambled round the far side of the tree.

And chestnuts there were in plenty. Great fun was had in gathering them, rolling the spiky husks under the soles of our boots till the shiny fruit lay open to view in its soft bed. There was much critical appraisal of our harvest, and before the girls were bored, a respectable bagful was gathered.

Not living in London where such luxuries are regulated, we were able to light the fire and invite Juliet and Amy to take turns cooking the nuts on the roasting shovel brought back from a holiday in Wales. There were still plenty for them to take back home, while I cooked and froze the rest: our Christmas stuffing was guaranteed local produce!

Extra Special Crows

28th October

There are a few species of crow in Britain: the most familiar around the Turnstones’ home being Jackdaws and Magpies. In Cornwall, Jack is present along the cliffs as well as the quaysides, and is by no means totally dependent on crumbs of human generosity. There is another crow that inhabits the rock faces and narrow ledges, but not the carrion crows that we saw in numbers stalking the fields above the slate cliffs.

It was not wishful thinking. That is a crow, yes, but neither jack nor carrion crow. Mrs T saw its orange bill without prompting from her husband – a chough, no, a pair of choughs! They may be associated with Canterbury, but they do not live here, in fact, I’d not seen one since we sat at the top of the Great Orme, eighteen years ago. To bed with a smile once more!

Singing and Scavenging for Supper

They were both seeking attention, each in his own way singing for his supper and disturbing the peace. First of all we heard the guitarist, plucking a Spanish concerto from his strings, playing against one of those recordings without the soloist, the over-amplified sound carrying a hundred yards and more across the harbour.
Even he was not loud enough to drown the pathetic cries of a fledgling gull, wheedling crumbs from whoever cared to toss or drop them, though he was not risking getting under the feet of any human or dog wandering the quayside. The whine continued, now from one side, now another, as he chased down anyone rash enough to occupy a bench.
The Jackdaws’ more dignified method was to watch from a vantage point and once the humans had got up and left, to circle down, without fuss, and snap up whatever crumbs and trifles the people had scattered about in their usual messy fashion. A most efficient tactic, and managed without the chatter these birds maintain on our rooftops or, as we saw them today at dusk, returning to St Petroc’s tower.
Just before twilight, as we enjoyed a cream tea, we observed a fourth, silent, species of scavengers, scuttling across the roadway, retreating down the steps onto the harbour pontoon if dogs or children took too close an interest – a troop of our tribal totem, the Turnstones. Cream tea crumbs seemed as tasty to them as the delicacies discovered along the tideline. I hope they are getting all their vitamins, but they looked healthy enough and certainly had their wits about them.