A warm October evening, and Mrs T and I felt lethargic. Time for a walk? Indeed there was, so up Abbot’s Hill we went. Autumn colours showing themselves, but what about the sloes? Mrs T made sloe gin last year, and the family enjoyed it, Mrs T excepted.
There they were on the old hedge, and I had a bag in my pocket. In a quarter of an hour we culled sufficient to our need – and I was delegated to make the gin this year. We slightly overshot our target of 1 lb or 450gm.
On the way down we gathered in the first dozen or so chestnuts: there’s a little squash waiting to be stuffed; a few mushrooms will help. Mists and mellow fruitfulness anyone?
A flying visit to Saddleworth, where the moorland fires are now out, allowed NAIB and I to walk to Diggle along the Canal, We managed a very little foraging, just to be able to say we had done it: a few tiny bilberries, raspberries almost as small, and a handful of blackberries between the two of us.
We turned around at the Western or Diggle Entrance to the Standedge Tunnel. Narrow boats may pass through in one direction at a time behind a pilot boat. No more were moving yesterday so the gates were closed for safety.
Note the sculpture of the leggers. In the days of horse power bargees walking, or legging, along the sides or roof of the canal was the only means of propulsion for 3¼ miles. No wonder there was a pub at either end!
The blue plaque commemorates Thomas Telford, engineer of the Menai Bridge and many other surviving structures, whose intervention enabled the tunnel to be completed in 1811. The date on the later portico is misleading.
As I walked along Canterbury’s Saint Peter’s Street on Saturday I saw a sure sign of Summer. Not the gaggles of French and Dutch teenagers squeezing into the pound shops, nor the obedient American and Japanese tourists following their guides’ uplifted, unopened, umbrellas.
No, It was the cherry lady from Faversham, but selling gooseberries this time. She promised ‘cherries next week’.
I bought gooseberries.
That afternoon as I was cycling home from visiting friends, I sought out the elder flowers needed to make the best gooseberry fool and gooseberry jam. Along the Crab and Winkle cycle path they were as unpolluted as anywhere.
Mrs T made the fool, and froze some puree to make more when summer is mere memory. It all went. Polish friends could not get enough of it, nor could I. Maybe the spare puree won’t make it till Christmas!
One thing lead to another, and with A busy Easter, and then being in a city, we did not manage our garlic forage until today. A new spot that Mrs T had found the other day. Flowers were shining among the leaves here and there.
But the surprise of the day was to discover a pheasant’s nest with a good dozen eggs in it. The cock was quite agitated not far away, no doubt his wife, too, was watching us. We gathered our leaves as quickly as possible and left them in peace. 8 jars of pesto are our reward!
I don’t know why this has been sitting in drafts for weeks, when it’s illustrated and all. Foraging seems a long while ago, with most leaves down and a wind trying to blow them and us away these last two days.
A month ago in Yorkshire, Mrs T and I took a walk which included a stretch of easy going along the old railway above the cliffs. Someone, sometime in the past, must have tossed an apple core from a train onto the bank. The fruit are small; green but with russet patches, and sharp. Maybe someone had been there before us – someone with shorter arms than this writer’s, as the half-dozen fruit I harvested were high above my head.
Added to blackberries and sloes, we have a Yorkshire marinade for Christmas. A good set and sharp enough to counter the sweetness of the goose.
Where have I been all this time? Partly travelling across Europe: France, Belgium, Germany, Poland. We noticed one thing in common between Polish and British railways: the fruit trees beside the tracks, convenient for the railway workers’ rest huts. These plums were somewhere in Western Poland, between the border and Warsaw. At centre-right, in the opening between the trees, is the silhouette (take my word for it) of one of three young men foraging them.