Friday, September 04, 2009
Autumn seems to have arrived very early this year,the woods have that lovely early morning earthy smell and the equinoxial gales are certainly with us at the moment. The woodland floor already has a scattering of fallen leaves and there is a slight chill in the air as I take B Baggins for his walk first thing. Most of the photographs in this post were taken in Lancashire towards the end of August as I walked Mr Dog along the Wyre estuary. Above are rowan berries, rich and opulent in the sunlight. Mixed with crab apples they make an attractive but tart jelly which can be served with game or lamb.
I was struck by the sheer abundance of all the berries this year, these blackberries have still to ripen but they look more like bunches of grapes than brambles - it will be a wonderful harvest for all the birds and small creatures who rely on the hedgerow fruits to see them through the winter.
The size and quantity of the sloes was encouraging - you may be seeing some purple berries, I am seeing several bottles of sloe gin! The sloes need a frost on them really before they are used but if my source here at home isn't as generously covered as the ones by the river then I shall be going over in October to pick some of these.
These beautiful, glowing red berries are quite definitely for admiring only - the berries of the woody nightshade are poisonous but nevertheless it's my favourite of all the autumn berries.
These are the pretty flowers and unripe berries of woody nightshade which scrambles about using other hedgerow plants for support.
Elderberries beginning to ripen, these can be turned into elderberry rob which is wonderful for winter coughs and colds. This is on my to do list before I go off to the USA at the end of this month.
Hips and haws both beginning to ripen and just as prolific as all the other autumn fruits. The haws are the berries of the hawthorn and can be used to make wine, rosehips are a rich source of vitamin C and rose hip syrup was doled out regularly in winter when I was a child to help keep colds at bay. During WW2 children were paid to gather the rosehips so that they could be made into a syrup by a company called Delrosa. This was then supplied to the mothers of young children through the local baby clinics.
All these were growing within the space of less than a mile along the river estuary, the path has the salt marsh,mud flats and river on one side and the hedgerows and fields on the other. It's not only rich in wild fruits and flowers but in birds of all kinds especially waders and wildfowl. As the tide is going out or coming in it is an absolute paradise for birdwatchers. I see hundreds and hundreds of birds sometimes, I only wish I had more idea what I was looking at. It's a walk that is always full of interest for Bilbo Baggins as well as me, he meets lots of other dogs and loves racing about and playing on the salt marsh. I like walking on the salt marsh too when it's dry enough, it's covered in all kinds of specialized plants including sea lavender, sea asters and glasswort which was used in glassmaking at one time. It also keeps you fit as there are a lot of little creeks and gullies that have to be jumped over and one or two that are wide enough to encourage one to make a detour. Discretion is definitely the better part of valour at these points as I have no wish to suffer the embarrasment of having to scramble out of a deepish and very muddy crater and totter home looking like a drowned rat! Always assuming that I wasn't a drowned rat of course, the creeks fill up when the tide is in and frequently stay full too!