Saturday, May 02, 2009
A Saturday Stroll with Bilbo Baggins
Now that the cricket season has begun Bilbo Baggins and I are usually on our own on Saturday afternoons and yesterday we went for a long walk through Ladies' Spring Wood to Beauchief Abbey. B Baggins suggested that we might show you some of the things we saw.
Yellow Archangel is a pretty but rampant wildflower which grows in moist woodland areas and is one of several plants that are ancient woodland indicators.
As the path climbs up there are fields to one side and we spotted comfrey growing at the margins between woods and fields. The country name for this wild herb is knitbone, I make an ointment from it which is wonderful for bruises, sprains, joint pains etc It should never be used on open wounds though.
Ladies' Spring Wood is ancient woodland which means that it has existed since at least 1600 since it was not until this date that landowners started planting trees to make woodland. It is on a steep slope running down to the River Sheaf and from the late 12th century until the Dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century the wood belonged to Beauchief Abbey.
Wood Sorrel, another ancient woodland indicator and associated with fairies, elves and woodland spirits. The leaves are edible and have a lemony flavour apparently though I've not tried them. It is also known as fairy bells and the fairies are said to be summoned to their moonlight revels by the ringing of these bells.
The 12th century Norman bell tower is all that remains standing of Beauchief Abbey now, in the 17th century a chapel was built on to the back of the tower and it is still in use as a church. The Abbey was founded by Robert Fitzranulph, the Sheriff of Nottingham(!) and Derbyshire, and was dedicated to St Mary and Thomas a Becket. There would have been about 12 to 15 canons living in the Abbey and running the many activities associated with it which are not the quiet, contemplative pastimes that you might expect. They were farmers which is within the scope of what you might associate with a monastery but also they had coal mines, a corn mill, water mills operating the hammers and bellows of iron forges, a tannery and a mill that was rented out for the grinding of scythes. Of course they employed lay people for the day to day running of all these industrial enterprises but nevertheless I found it very surprising that these came within the compass of an abbey.
The only other substantial part of the original abbey is a wall of the nave of the abbey church at the back of chapel. The graveyard is Victorian.
You will need to click on the photo to see the bits of wall that are all that remains of store rooms and the left hand wall of the Refectory. It's a pity that more hasn't been done to conserve what remains above ground. The house on the right of the photograph is Beauchief Abbey Farm which was built about 1700.
Considerable imagination will be required here to visualize the cloister which was where the open area of grass now stands. A visit to Derrick's blog Melrose Musings will provide you with some rather more impressive abbey ruins to look at:)
If you hadn't been driving along the lane slowly your chances of spotting this sign would have been minimal!
A lovely big patch of the herb sweet woodruff, in medieval times this it was used as a strewing herb and to stuff mattresses, there is no scent to the fresh herb but when it is dried it smells of new mown hay. It can be used in pillows to help you sleep and is an ingredient of May Wine which is drunk at Beltane - next year this is going to be part of my celebration, sweet woodruff grows in my garden so I don't have to go far for a few sprigs of it.
bottle of white wine
bottle of champagne or sparkling wine
juice of 2-3 lemons
two lemons cut in slices
juice of 2-3 oranges
two oranges cut in slices
handful of strawberries, cut in slices
handful of whole strawberries to float in the wine
Open the bottle of white wine, insert the sprigs of woodruff, recork the wine and leave in the refrigerator overnightto allow the herb to steep and flavor the wine.Next day, in a large punchbowl, combine the woodruff-flavored white wine with the champagne or sparkling wine. Add the juice from the lemons and oranges.
Add slices of oranges and lemons, and sliced strawberries to the punchbowl.
Garnish with sprigs of woodruff and whole strawberries.
Back into Ladies' Spring Wood now much to B Baggins' relief as he had to be on his lead on the lane and in the Abbey grounds.
We found it hard to get a good photo of the bluebells as the sun was striking from the wrong direction and fading the colour. There were great sheets of them all over the wood though and every so often the wonderful scent drifted on the air.
As we dropped down nearer to the river the scent of bluebells was replaced by the scent of wild garlic or ransoms. I had no idea that they grew so prolifically round here until B Baggins' friend Bertie showed us this walk.
'Come on mum', we've been out ages and I'm ready to go home for my tea now'