Tuesday, May 26, 2009
A Wet Start and a Detour
I've just spent a week in Sussex and Dorset and when I left home the weather was so bad that I decided to stay off the motorway and find my way down to Northampton on the ordinary roads. I left at 6am in pouring rain so at least there wasn't much traffic while I navigated on strange roads. On the map the route looks perfectly straightforward, on the ground it's full of roundabouts, narrow roads through small towns and a general lack of signposts where you need them most! However by 9am I was driving through Leicestershire and the rain had eased and suddenly I saw a large brown sign that said 'Bosworth Battlefield'. Working on the theory that 'I may never pass this way again' I did a sharp left turn and set off to see what I could find. It was too early for the Visitor Centre to be open when I arrived but there was a walk around the area of the battlefield with good information boards at intervals.
The Battle of Bosworth took place on the 22nd August 1485 and was the final battle of the Wars of the Roses. It changed the course of English history as the Plantaganet king, Richard lll, was killed on the battlefield and Henry Tudor became Henry Vll, father of Henry Vlll and grandfather of Elizabeth l. Above is Ambion Hill where Richard's army camped the night before the battle.
The battle standard of Richard lll which would have been flying on Ambion Hill on that fateful day when Richard was betrayed by Lord Thomas Stanley who waited to see which way the battle was going and finally committed his large private army on the side of Henry Tudor and attacked Richard and his cavalry and Richard was killed, the last English king to die in battle. His body was treated shamefully by Henry Tudor, he was stripped naked and tied to a horse and taken to Leicester where it was exposed to the public gaze for two days before being buried without ceremony at the Church of the Greyfriars. At the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries his coffin was dug up and his bones thrown into the River Soar. This was followed by the blackening of his reputation by supporters of the Tudor dynasty in particular Sir Thomas More. William Shakespeare's play, Richard lll, was largely based on the book written by More. During his lifetime contemporary sources suggest that he was an able and greatly loved administrator who did much to improve the living standards and liberties of ordinary people.
A cairn covers the spring where King Richard is said to have stopped to drink during the battle.
This is the board standing just in front of the spring, The Fellowship of the White Boar was the original name of the Richard lll Society
St James Church, Sutton Cheney where Richard is reputed to have heard his final Mass on the eve of battle.
The memorial to Richard lll and his followers which is on a wall of the church. A poor photograph because of the way the light was shining on it. Loyautie me lie translates as 'Loyalty binds me' and was the motto of Richard Plantagenet. The memorial was placed there by the Richard lll Society.My own interest in Richard began after I read a book called The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey - it's a detective novel which I have read several times and it never gets any less intriguing. However we'd better carry on to Sussex now.
I was in Sussex to do a course called Food for Free at the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum, it was a pleasant enough day but to be honest I can't say I learned a great deal that I didn't know already, it didn't rain anyway and we had a pleasant ramble in the woodland but other than that it wasn't very notable.One thing to do when you are out in the country is to notice not only what is available now but what might be worth coming back for later in the year - in this case the wild strawberry flowers will eventually become small,sweet fruit.
This is a fungus that grows on dead ash trees and is called King Alfred's Cakes - and they do look like little cakes left in the fire too long. They aren't edible but they are very useful for anyone who is living off the land and needs to start a fire.
They can be either brown or black and the black variety can be very useful for lighting fires because the inner flesh, once dried out, will easily catch a spark which will ignite the flesh of the fungus and, although it burns slowly like a barbecue briquette, once it has been lit you can get a flame started. It can also be used to carry as a living ember if wrapped in birch bark or fresh grass. "Oetzi", the 5000 year old Iceman who was found in the melting ice of an Alpine glacier in Italy in 1991, was carrying a piece of tinder fungus in a leather pouch. They are rather attractive when they are cut open too, the inside reminded me of tree rings.
This is burdock, most widely known in its context of Dandelion and Burdock - one of the world's most wonderful drinks in my opinion:) The root can also be eaten as a root vegetable provided you have sufficient strength and stamina to dig it up! It has several medicinal uses too.
Good King Henry is not only wild but was widely grown in cottage gardens in the medieval period and used as a potherb. It can be cooked like spinach and you can also use the stems which are known as Poor Man's Asparagus. The Henry part has nothing to do with English kings - Good Henry was a kind of Anglo-Saxon elf!
We were shown how to hot smoke fish on an open fire using a couple of baking tins and a tray from a disposable barbecue. You shave half a dozen slivers of wood such as apple, beech, hazel, or oak into one of the trays,put the fish on the grid over the top and season it, then put the other tray over it. Do NOT use woods like yew, pines or horse chestnut as they are toxic, you really do need to know what you are doing when using wood for anything like this.
Put the lot straight onto the fire and put a big rock on top to keep the lid on, leave it for 10 minutes or so and...
...smoked cooked fish. Very nice it was too. Afterwards I went back to where I was staying and went to a local inn called the Keepers Arms to eat a beautiful steak closely followed by a beautiful creme brulee! No foraging required!