Join me as I share some of my daily walks around my beautiful home village of Muthill:
Find Hedgerow Hippy’s Plant Adventure Podcast here:
Join me as I share some of my daily walks around my beautiful home village of Muthill:
Find Hedgerow Hippy’s Plant Adventure Podcast here:
As a new virus, we are all in a learning curve with COVID19. So I don’t have specific advice for you here. But, without knowing more about you, I couldn’t be specific anyway. As always, it’s a question of treating the person not the disease, being careful of drug interactions, allergies and existing health conditions. So, let’s go back to basics
If you need to stay well and you want some advice, give me a call and I’ll talk you through your options.
No charge. We’ll get through this together.
07738 874 320
We had a hardy bunch who attended Study Group at Hedgerow Hippy’s Herb Hut at Cultybraggan Camp all throughout the winter last year despite the worst of the weather. But, fair to say, we lost a few folk too.
The Herb Hut is a coorie wee place with the fire on and the lamps lit as the nights draw in. But it can be a thought to get yourself out there on a dark, frosty night when winter truly settles.
We also know that some of you just can’t make it out to join us at any time of year due to transport issues.
So, this winter, we’re trialling a more central location in Crieff. Ruth at the Blue Noun Language School, has very kindly agreed to let us use their space for the next three months to run the Study Group. It’s a bright warm space, centrally located, on a bus route and with parking nearby.
Every week we pick a herb to study, dive into the Herb Library, write it up, discuss it, explore concepts and ideas, chat and drink tea. Its pay as you go – just £5 per session – so no need to commit long term if you’ve got lots on. Just come when you can and enjoy an evening or an afternoon with like-minded folk. And you can bring your kids too.
Until now, I’ve always worked on an appointment basis, for the simple fact that none of my consultation spaces have a waiting area. But now, working with our new neighbours at Cultybraggan Camp – Comrie WorkSpace – we are delighted to offer a Saturday drop-in session.
Appointments will be 15 minutes and cost £15 which includes your own personal herbal tea blend.
The first session will run for an hour from 10:30 to 11:30 on Saturday 7th Dec.
Click here for directions: https://www.hedgerowhippy.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Directions-to-Herb-Hut.pdf
Any problems finding us, call Roger on 07719 366 598 and he will guide you to reception.
There’s a new way to join us at Herb Hut Study Group.
We’ve had interest from folk who just can’t make it along to the current Study Group sessions for various reasons; they live some distance away; they’ve got something else on; getting out to the Camp is difficult… etc.
So we’ve been thinking hard about how to include everyone in our community and you’ll now be able to join us remotely.
For £5 per month, I’ll post you out samples of our Herb of the Week and you’ll be able to join in the chat on our Facebook forum – The Herb Hutters.
We will use this private space to continue discussion from our study sessions as well as share our various Plant Adventures.
You also have the option of joining us for one in-person Study Group a month if you are able.
Message us from here, if you’re interested in this option, and we’ll get you started.
As with the original Study Group concept, this has scope to evolve in response to participants needs and interests so please do get back to me with any suggestions or requests and we’ll see what can be done.
It is very definitely still Winter. The trees are still skeletons against the cold sky. Some are swaddled in warm green Ivy, others the wispy shroud of last year’s Galium. But if you stop for a moment, you can see life emerging. Along the seemingly bare twigs, tiny buds peek out. Under sheltered hedges, bulbs poke up through the leaf litter. Soon the snowdrops will be flowering and the Beech hedge will throw off its auburn cloak to make way for the fresh green leaves of Spring.
Meanwhile, in the kitchen, my winter supply of warming ginger is also forming hopeful new buds. Might it be possible to grow my own? Let’s find out…
I have a clipping from Grow Your Magazine which says…
“Plant a ginger rhizome in a pot, keep it on a warm windowsill and you’ll soon have a leafy plant. After a period of strong growth, turn out, harvest some rhizomes and chop or grate to make tea”
This seems entirely too easy but a helpful gardening forum also says yes, advising to soak the rhizome first to help remove any growth inhibitor in shop bought ginger. They also point me to this website which is a bit more realistic about my chances in a temperate climate. Google then guides me to Craftsy and a free pdf download with succinct and practical advice. So, I’m off to soak my sprouting rhizomes and find a suitable (and beautiful) pot.
Let the Ginger adventure begin…
An Adventure in which Hedgerow Hippy and her Trusty Apprentice encounter a Kingdom, a Hillfort and a Magical Well…
In search of an adventure in Perth that didn’t involve a pub, we headed up to Kinnoull Hill. It started out with a disappointing (and pretty steep) gravelly path but we took the first opportunity to take a detour into the woods and discovered a beautiful maze of paths winding a bit more gently around the hill. I much prefer a leisurely zig zag than a mad march straight to the top.
Starting out in a dapply Birch Wood with loads of flowering Wood Sage along the path edges, we climbed over a few fallen Larches before coming to a clearing full of my latest obsession – grasses. This year, I’ve been really taken with the different types of grasses – amazing architectural and textural variety. If you’d told me 10 years ago that I’d find grasses even remotely interesting I’d have laughed so hard! But I suppose once the conifers have got you, a line is crossed and no botanical obsession is too weird…
When we reached the top, a hazy horizon failed to match the lookout plaque – no mountains to be seen today. But there were wise words etched into the bench – Think Global, Act Local.
It’s a sentiment I’m familiar with but I’m less familiar with the name it is attributed to – Patrick Geddes. A quick Wiki makes me want to read more though…
We press on round the path to another look out point. This is more like what we were expecting! A dizzying view across the silvery Tay to the Kingdom of Fife .
I know. The picture doesn’t do it justice. We tried a few different ideas to give it a bit of perspective but, really, you just need to get yourself up that hill and see it for yourself.
En route to the Hillfort, a glimpse through the trees caught my breath… no less impressive on discovering it was in fact a carving.
The real discovery was yet to come though. Whenever we’re out and about he inevitably gets the phone out and has a look for any Geocaches that are about. Kinnoull Hill is hoaching with them! So we went up to the hillfort and for the ‘virtual cache’ – photo evidence:
Then went looking for Lady Grey’s well. I’ve got mixed feelings about geocaching but its when it leads you to discoveries like this that I love it. Yes, it’s a plastic box with some random nick nacks in it at the base of a tree (they’re always at the base of a tree!) but while he was signing the little book to say we’ve found it, I was taking in the atmosphere of the Well. It’s a Clootie Well – a kind of wishing well where you tie a piece of cloth to a tree to heal you of some affliction or make a wish for your future.
A red neckerchief stood out immediately but the longer I stood the more and more ribbons and baubles became apparent. A long pink ribbon from someone I imagine to be a Polish immigrant.
A Swan Vesta match box from someone I imagine wants to give up smoking (and chocolate, the person who tied on a Thorntons ribbon).
A poignant Marie Curie Daffodil which simply reads ‘thank you’.
I cut the ribbon off my notebook and made a wish as I tied it to the tree (not telling – if you tell, it doesn’t come true!)
And so we headed off to Boaby’s Wood (stop it!!! No, I laughed all the way there…) before the rain came on…
My Sister and her Island Man gave me a lovely wee book called the Healing Wells of the Western Isles by Finlay MacLeod. In the intro, he discusses the role of ritual in effecting healing. Certainly, the pilgrimage to such a well and the symbolism of leaving your wish or leaving your illness behind on the cloot to be washed clean by the spirit of the well has the power to be an effective placebo. However, each of the wells in the book has a specific range of powers to heal certain illnesses so I wonder about the plants that grow nearby. Could they leach their healing properties into the well water? What about the mineral composition of the rocks the water flows through? Indeed, the book describes some wells as having water which is ‘full of iron’ or with a ‘film resembling oil’ to be seen on the surface of the water.
On the other hand, I have been thinking alot recently about the psychology of health. The way that people respond to health and ill health is fascinating. When writing my dissertation, I also became fascinated by the nature of mental health – the way we separate the psychological from the physiological and how it wasn’t always that way. It is intriguing that many of the Wells described in book are credited with the power to heal all sorts of nervous or mental illnesses, from ‘insanity’ to dementia, toothache to deafness!
So, i’ve been pondering on the words Wishing Well. At first glance its a ‘well’ where you get water but now, thinking about it, I wonder which came first. The well that holds water or the water that makes you well?
I’m pretty confident with my botanising but I have a mild (but healthy it has to be said) fear of the carrot family. I certainly never point them out when I do herb walks! What if someone got it wrong when they picked on their own?! So when I saw a course called “Confidence with Carrots” on the Galloway Wild Foods website, I thought “that’s the very thing for me!” I was fairly certain that I wasn’t the only one with mild paranoia about these plants and, sure enough, when I posted up the link on the Scottish Herbalists facebook page, there was plenty of interest.
And so, 6 months later, me and my man, along with 8 lovely Herbalists (and a little baby Herbie), headed South to Galloway. And what a stunning weekend Mark chose for us. After a dismal, cold start to May I was beginning to wonder if I should look out my thermals for the camping trip! But the weekend of the 26th brought a heatwave and the South West shone in the sun. The last time I was down this way it was 1976, I was three years old, holidaying in a caravan at Kirkcudbright – happy (if hazy) memories and another heatwave. Maybe it’s always this nice in Galloway…
After meeting at The Mill on the Fleet for introductions and cuppas, we headed off – first stop Ground Elder
His common sense advice was reassuring as was his knowledge and passion for his subject which was obviously distilled from long experience. We looked at the sometimes purple stems of Cow Parsley and made a note to compare it with the purple stems of Hemlock later. We discovered Wild Angelica, Pignut and the edible young shoots of Hogweed (a big hit of the day!)
A sober pause at the bridge, as we saw our first Hemlock Water-dropwort, leaving us all incredulous at how this seriously poisonous plant looked so edible. It looks just like celery! Even smells a bit like it. People have died from eating a meal of the roots as it even tastes good! It was one of the really lovely moments of the day for me though, as we all confessed our fears and experiences – a little bonding moment of trust…
It was great to chat and share experiences with people who know what it means and what it takes to get to know the plants and the habitats, to build confidence one season at a time, accumulating knowledge and constantly learning. This was Mark’s patch and he clearly knew it intimately and loved it well. By the time we reached the field to turn back towards town I think we had all quite fallen for Mark and for Galloway.
The midday sun had wilted us all somewhat so we decided to stop for lunch at Gatehouse before we did anything else. Water bottles refilled and shade sought, lunch was a revelation which perked us all up no end. We had been gathering edibles in the lunch basket as we went but Mark had pre-prepared some little wild-greens sushi rolls drizzled with his homemade Elderberry vinegar. I wish I’d taken a picture, they were so pretty, but they were gone so quickly! We filled up on delicious cheese and homemade bread whilst Mark prepared our next treat – young Hogweed shoots, fried in butter with Sweet Cicley seeds and Ground Elder – we’re still talking about it in our house. Some locally smoked mussels and salmon to finish and, replete, we rested in the shade.
If that had been the end of the day I would truly have gone home happy. But Mark had very generously offered to take us to the coast in the afternoon. So, refuelled and ready for more, we hopped into the cars and headed to the Isle of Whithorn to meet the next ‘baddie’ of the day. It was a long drive to get there but seeing a plant up close and personal is invaluable – how can you get to know it if you’ve never met it? Hemlock was indeed worryingly similar to Cow Parsley but the purple on the stem was distinctly ‘blotchy’ and the smell was rank!
We also met Sea Radish (hot!) and Orache before moving on to St Ninian’s Cave. What was supposed to be a quick walk through the woods to get to the beach took much longer than anticipated as this kept happening…
Floras at the ready (Paul Sterry’s Collins guide and Francis Rose being the popular floras of choice) impromptu IDs were established and we were all in our element. Much excitement over the finding of another Wild Carrot – Sanicle (sorry my picture didn’t come out – too blurry) and we eventually made it to the seaside…
Mark’s enthusiasm for his plants was impressive before but now that he had coastal plants to play with, his giddy excitement was infectious. Sea Campion, Rock Samphire and Sea Kale all hit our taste buds with explosions of flavour – sweet, pungent, aromatic – carrot, broccoli, honey – intense, surprising and moreish!
Much consternation amongst the Herbalists as we found the flattest Hawthorn in the world with what seemed to be little satellite outposts of Blackthorn. The coastal habitat was seducing us all and we started to make plans for a full Coastal Foraging day next Spring…
Mark was still raring to go and pointed to the hillfort we were to climb next to find Scots Lovage and Wild Carrot but the Herbalists had all gone limp in the heat. I sooo wanted to see the Wild Carrot but climbing that hill in the heat would have finished me off (I was already a bit headachy) and the others still had a 3 hour drive back home ahead of them so, sadly, we decided to make our way back to the cars. But Mark had more! He showed us some Sea Holly (tasty), a sample of Giants Hogweed (another baddie) and some Monkshood he had found (the baddest baddie). One last stop to have a tantalising look at the Bay of Herbs and an impressive display of Mark’s beloved Sea Kale…
We drove back to the campsite mostly in silence, each of us digesting the feast of information, experience and sensations of the day. An occasional “those Hogweed shoots!”… then a “My favourite bit of the Sea Kale was the flowers… no the shoots… no…” or a “Sea Campion flowers – who knew?!”… all met with satisfied little happy nom nom noises of agreement.
Writing this now just makes my heart so happy. It was such a beautiful day. We slept well that night and headed back North in the morning, truly in love with Galloway and desperate to come back as soon as we can…
A final note to say an enormous, heartfelt thank you to Mark Williams for being such a knowledgeable, enthusiastic and generous host. As well as giving us all a memorable day, he has given me the confidence to embrace the Carrot Family and opened up a whole new world of plants. To top it all off he’s a genuinely lovely guy and a great Hedgerow companion to have.
Get yourself over to http://www.gallowaywildfoods.com/ and book yourself some time with him.
I take my hibernation quite seriously and don’t usually venture out much at this time of year. But prompted by the mild weather and by Aye Can’s Facebook campaign to Get up and Go, I went down to the woods for the first time this year. What a mess! It was carnage – trees down all over the place. I took pictures but I don’t think they capture devastation. You could almost see where the wind had funnelled through the woods toppling tree after massive tree as it went. Once they’re all cleared away there will be a distinct gap in the woodland floor. If you have a fire in the house, this would be a good time to stock up on wood (as evidently some have been doing). As well as the giant conifers, there are plenty of smaller birches and rowans down too.
It was a beautiful walk though. I stopped to watch the Roe deer grazing in the stubbly fields for a while (easing myself in gently you know?). The hedgerows are showing signs of life; Sweet Cicely poking through at the horse gate, tiny Gallium shoots at the layby and Dandelion and Plantain all over the place. Sweet Woodruff in its usual spots but it looks like last year’s growth rather than new. As I was pondering this I was disturbed by an almighty noise and looked up expecting to see geese. Instead, 5 swans, beating their powerful wings and gabbling to each other, sailed over the treetops. Awesome in every sense of the word.
Making my way through the woods, I came across this young tree which just shone at me as I passed. I’ve never seen such a metallic silver bark. Oddly, I think this means it’s a Downy Birch rather than a Silver Birch but apparently they hybridise so it could be a bit of both. I’ll keep an eye on this one I think and see what it does as it grows.
As I reached the gate at Tigh Ban I could see it was getting dark but I had heard tales of wild garlic up in Crieff (I know! It’s January!) So, as I didn’t have anything waiting for me at home except my tax return, I took a right and headed for the beach. This gave me a good opportunity to take some pictures of the Tilia down that way. They are quite different to the church ones – more upright and rounded. I’ll add them to the Tree Year file for comparison and attempt an ID at some point. Sadly I didn’t find any garlic – a few moments of excitement but it turned out to be young docks. As well as all the advice about not picking anything unless you’re sure what it is etc. I think I’ll add “don’t attempt to ID in the dark”!
I wandered down to the beach for a few moments contemplation before I headed home. It’s always different down there. Changing river levels, floods and a certain amount of excavation, constantly change the way the water flows. In an isolated but still deep pool, I saw the tell tale ripples of fish rising. I hoped they would make it out before the pool shrunk any more but as this passed through my mind a Heron took off from the far bank and circled overhead – they may make easy pickings I fear.
Turning for home, yet another sight to stir my Winter soul from hibernation: shining in the twilight sky, Jupiter and Venus! Which reminded me – apparently tonight there is a good chance of seeing the Aurora borealis. But looking to the North, the mountains were already almost hidden and in the West, more dark clouds were rising. I stopped awhile as I passed the woods on the way home to stargaze through the bare branches of the Winter trees…
A magical end to a magical walk.
[pictures hopefully to follow – computer gremlins…]
So, I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped for the Tree Year (it didn’t help that they chopped my trees down though). I got a harvest of flowers from the trees in the park in August but I think they’re different types of tree because they are much smaller than the Church ones and they don’t seem to sprout at the base. This afternoon I have some hope that the Church trees are showing hopeful signs of regrowth though and i’ll continue to post on their progress. I have alot more to share about the wonderful properties of the Tilia flowers but, for today, with a whisky induced headache, I simply offer some pictures of a Summer harvest to look forward to…