Tag Archives: hedge

Talking of Trees

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It was the ash trees that set us talking: we were looking for signs of die-back disease, which is in Kent, and cannot be kept from the trees at the Glebe. So far, so good, but V reckoned on a further ten years before we know whether any of ours will be the ones to preserve the species into the twenty-second century.

Naturally we slipped into talking of the elms, still around in our boyhoods. ‘You’ll have to go to Brighton to see a good specimen now’, said V, ‘and they are pumped full of fungicide’. He told me they grow from suckers in hedgerows elsewhere, but once they approach maturity, the beetles find them, bringing the Dutch Elm Disease fungus with them.

A useful tree, we agreed, as well as beautiful. I recalled seeing pipes made from elm, even in the iron-founding Taff valley in South Wales. Perhaps the wood was more flexible, less likely to crack, than cast iron.

Then, what should I see beside the level crossing in Canterbury, but these carved elm gutters, fallen, I guess, from the back of a lorry. How old are they, I wonder? From the smooth channels and the splintered ends, they look as though they would have been good for a few more years’ service when they were hacked up.

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6 January: Traveller’s Joy

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It’s the feast of the Epiphany, the visit of the wise men who travelled from the East to Baby Jesus, so why not celebrate with Traveller’s Joy!

This is a wild clematis that is happy climbing around hedgerows and wasteland, with pale green-tinged flowers in late summer, and in winter seed heads that look white or grey according to the light. Old Man’s Beard it gets called at this stage.

Alongside the railway towards Dover it has spread itself. I arrived at just the right moment this week to catch the few minutes’ sunshine through the beard. Right beside it is the Victorian footbridge, recently decorated by community artists with – Traveller’s Joy!

A Summer Walk in the Downs

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It’s a while since you were invited to join us for a walk. This one started at the Timber Batts pub in Bodsham and took us by field paths and along country roads, back to our starting point. Boots on!

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Almost at once we are into ripening grain crops with wild flowers blooming along the field margins where the path runs.

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Along this lane we met no traffic except a stoat.

 

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The farm buildings at the top of the hill included this old shed, which looks like a WWII prefabricated building.

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Kent chalkland is not the most dramatic scenery, but the contours lie easy on the eye. Civilisation means that electricity cables are never far away though. But they make life possible for the farmers and other locals.

 

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A few sprigs of wild marjoram (oregano) will help flavour an omelette.

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Scabious on one side of the lane, poppies on the other, wild clematis, ‘traveller’s joy’ in the hedge. Happy memories of using this for our daughter’s wedding last summer.

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Along another lane, we passed this old house, the oaken frame raised off the damp ground on a stone plinth.

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Then into the shade of a belt of trees, which still smells of wild garlic underfoot.

 

 

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The path now is partly loose flint, but naked chalk in places; both surfaces require careful walking, the chalk can be very slippery when wet. This dry summer is another matter.

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Back in the lanes, where honeysuckle and willow herb brighten the verges. But this is working countryside.

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And Saint James’s church at Elmstead is a working church, though 900 years and more old, with a ring of six bells in this unique tower. The church was open.

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And this lady was waiting to greet visitors.

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From the church we went back to the Timber Batts, and after a welcome Disco Cider (made from Kentish Disco-very apples) we attended the Bodsham School Fete; a good day out altogether!

 

 

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.

Sitting in the Spinney

Riding due East into Aylesham my expectations were somewhat confounded. I had expected the gale to be on my back, but it was on my left shoulder, pushing me towards the middle of the road. There was noticeable relief when there was a hedge on the North side of the road, so it was encouraging to see new hawthorn slips bursting green from their rabbit-proof planting tubes. Relief for cyclists and protection for the land. The soil up here is quite thin over the chalk.

More relief when I branched off on the Southern road into the village. The Spinney shields most of this stretch, a woodland with beech, hazel and sweet chestnut. I stopped to sit on a branch and eat lunch. The bluebells are in fine leaf, as are wild arum and anemones, but what of wild garlic? I hadn’t long to search, I had an appointment in the village and I wasted time watching a brimstone butterfly, happy enough to be out of the wind, under the trees, enjoying the sunshine beaming through the bare branches. I found just one leaf, which I nobly left to grow. And I was happy too.

Let’s change that ‘I wasted time’ to ‘I spent time’, while I was watching the butterfly. Time well-spent!