In autumn, there’s a red flush on the hills here – the briar rose and hawthorn offering their bounty of scarlet and orange-red berries. It’s taken seven years for it to sink in that these freely available flowerings can offer us health and the enjoyment that comes from rambling around and picking.
And now that thousands of cyclists aren’t passing through the village, the apple trees that line the old railway line are loaded with fruit too. These trees grew from cores thrown out the window from passing trains, and from the seeds have grown trees bearing sweet and crunchy apples, a godsend for a hot cyclist.
I’ve enjoyed them on bike rides myself. The laden trees are now another symbol of how life has changed here – the pub and café closed, the street and bike racks empty of the conglomeration of bikes, the quick smiles from strangers passing through or stopping to talk, the washing lines in the valley empty of the lines of flapping white sheets and pillowcases and towels.
For many of us make a way of life here by offering cyclists shelter.
In yesterday’s foraging, from our own gardens and along the rail trail: rosehips, hawthorn berries, apples and elderberries. The rosehips I like to soak in almond or organic oil for at least three weeks in a cool dark place (first top and tailing them and then cutting in half) for face moisturizer.
After rereading Isla Burgess’s book The Biophilic Garden and her entry on rosehips, I’ve decided to dry some and grind for teas. Rosehip tea is high in lycopene, an antioxidant ‘linked with reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.’ Isla recommends putting approximately 3cm of dried ground hips in a jar and pouring boiling water over. Stir now and then for the next 30 mins. “This is a syrupy, beautifully coloured, naturally sweet, warm drink.” Isla’s books on herbal medicine are highly recommended.
Today there’s snow on the peaks at the end of the valley. No wonder the fire was welcome last night. A still, fine but cloudy day, dry enough yet for more foraging.
One of my favourite Brian Turner poems, Deserts, for instance, reminds us that what our eye may pass over or disdain, holds its own beauty, strength and healing.
Deserts, for instance
The loveliest places of all
are those that look as if
there’s nothing there
to those still learning to look