Tuesday, 24 May 2016

I think I am a bit of a gatherer like a squirrel!

Diligently gathering her nuts in May.  Well it is May and I am just taking advantage of what is about.  Whenever I go out anywhere I am always rootling about in hedgerows or where I find interesting things.  I think this stems from the fact that my father used to walk us everywhere and give us nature lessons along the way when we were younger  and it also gave us something interesting to discuss along the way. 

It was a win win situation as it got us out in the fresh air, gave us exercise and he kept us entertained for hours.  Its always important to keep a child's interest but Dad not only achieved that he also taught us how to keep ourselves amused too. (He was a natural born Teacher).  Often it was just simple things and simple pleasures but ones that still work to this day.

Whether that be collecting conkers and then stringing them for games of conkers and getting bruised wrists in the process or collecting rosehips and drying them for use during the winter months or making rosehip cordial.  We were always allowed to be involved although more difficult safety related procedures were left to the adults to deal with as otherwise things may have got a little hairy with two very interested enthusiastic children at heel.  So we were taught boundaries too.

In the winter he used to get us wrapped up warmly and then walk us in the snow tracking animals by their footprints and being given useful information as to how to recognise the different tracks. 

In the spring months it would be gathering elderflowers for my Nan's home made Elderflower champagne, or nettles for nettle wine.  He had a deep love and respect for nature and he was determined that we were also going to be provided with the knowledge he had gained and in many respects he has proved wise in passing that knowledge on.  You never know when you are going to need that knowledge and if its there waiting to be released.

We always had butterfly nets that were used for either catching and studying butterflies or insects or alternatively used for pond dipping or rock pool dipping so we were kept entertained and the butterfly nets also got a lot of mileage.

In autumn we always went en-masse as a family hunting for brambles for the freezer and there would always be fresh home made pie which was always a big delight served with custard or my Nan's top of the milk cream.  Elderberries were harvested to make a rich sweet red wine as well as Elderberry Rob to soothe sore throats and colds.  Blackberry and apple jam and bramble jelly were also on the repertoire.  Living out in the sticks you had to make use of what came your way and also put provisions up for the winter months to help vary the diet but also put food in your belly to keep you warm.

New seasons field mushrooms were also a big treat and even to this day a find of mushrooms of this sort is still a big thing  for me especially when they have been fried in butter and then simply served on toast.  It brings back strong memories of my Dad for me.

It was the same when we went to the beach we would come back with shells and pebbles and would be rootling round rock pools shrimping with our butterfly nets. Only very rarely getting shrimps and then releasing them back to the water.  Or little bits of sea glass or drift wood.

When we went to the river we would always be watching the wild life on there and watching for fish.  I remember going to Duddington Mill - a favourite place as not only was it a beautiful working mill but we would then go on to the fishing bank with my Dad and brother and we went tiddling and came back with jam jars full of tiny minnows we always released them before leaving for home. We would also go newting.  There was a pond near my Nan's that we used to traipse down to (not allowed to do that now for conservation reasons).

So our childhoods were rich in other things and we were also taught to make use of what came our way.  There were no restrictions then on collecting wild flowers for making wine.

Yesterday as I walked to the Hospital it would seem that old habits die hard as I was nosing in the hedgerows to see what was about and I also came back with the new seasons fir cones about 8 in all.  They are on the dresser at the moment just in situ but they are destined for a garland or two this autumn as I need some autumn style garlands to deck the dresser with.  Its therefore a case of grabbing what you can when you see it.  I will hopefully get some wheat and corn stems as well come harvest time to dry and use in decorations. I am also after a Chinese Lantern plant which the little lanterns look stunning in dried flower arrangements but I want some for my garlands as well as honesty and other dried flowers.

With the packets of bulbs I also came across two Asters that I had found reduced so I will probably pop them up tonight.  Mums always put on a fabulous display come the autumn months and my mother had some in the garden which I think I may also liberate and plant up.  There is also a big patch of London Pride - Mum always had that planted up wherever we lived so it seems pertinent that I carry on the  family tradition. I also need to get the Lily of the Valley and the violets (especially the violets as they originally came from my great grandmother's garden) and the Ruby Wedding anniversary rose that I bought for my parents.  My mum used to dry the fragrant leaves for me in the conservatory so I must retain that as I always used them in home made pot pourri.  Mum loved that rose bush and for me it will be a living link to her.

Does foraging and gathering your nuts whilst you may play a big part in your life.  Is it something you do unconsciously season to season or is it something that  you want to try but don't know really where to start.

Would be lovely to hear from you.

Catch you later.




  1. That is a wonderful evocation of childhood and of Nature's bounties in general. My late mother used to have Chinese lanterns in her garden, also honesty which she dried and then she removed the dried parts which left the silvery bit in the middle which looked wonderful in a tall vase I her hall. WE have a walnut tree in our garden and so look forward to the nuts in the autumn - in a good year there will be sufficient for ourselves, the squirrels who forage for them, and our friends and neighbours, too.
    Margaret P
    Margaret P

    1. good evening Margaret. I was very lucky in that my childhood was a very happy one. Mum and Dad never had a lot of money but the lack of in that department was always made up for with lots of love and time spent with and on us. My Nan had a rockery outside of the back door and she always planted the Chinese lanterns in the border the other side of the rockery. I think she used to grow them for flower arranging in the home - she always had flowers in the house and also for the church. How lovely to have a Walnut tree. I have promised myself that if I ever win anything on the lottery I would hope to find a house with some land where I could plant up a Nuttery and also fruit orchards. My grandparents always had the orchards but never the Nuttery. One has to dream. It makes the everday living more worthwhile. take care. tricia xx

  2. Parts of that sound very familiar to me, though dad was working and didn't have time to take me out as often as mum did. I was born with a love of the countryside and wild flowers and plants though, and always wanted to expand on mum's hedgerow foraging for berries. Over the years I have - like you - made the most of what I could find.

    A really lovely post Tricia.

    1. Hi BB

      I thought they might familiar to you. My first memory is of the cottage where my brother was born it had leaded lights, and a coal stove as well as an open fire hearth. there were about three cottages and then the Hall up the drive (we lived in one of the Lodge Cottages to the Duke of Rutland's shooting lodge at Gunthorpe Hall. So really I am a cottage kid/ People did not have the money to spend and if you didn't make the most of what you had you didn't eat well and it was very much a case of making some bramble jelly here - it provided a simple meal with toast, or included in the weekly bake with school boys earholes (jam tarts) or as a filling in a sandwich cake or pasties or tarts. It was about keeping the wolf from the door. very different to today - I think perhaps people of today could learn a lot from years gone by. And because I do so much preserving I am viewed oddly by my peers but there is always a meal of sorts to be had as a result. I still remember the fresh made bread off my Nan's Rayburn filled for Sunday tea with brawn or potted beef. equally Saturday nights tea could be toast and jam or crumpets and jam.

      Thank you for your kind words. Hope you are keeping well.

      Tricia xx

  3. I too spent a lot of time walking in the countryside as a child. I must say that your childhood sounds idyllic. I've always had London Pride growing on my gardens as well for the same reason - my dad always had it in his gardens.


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