Thursday, 5 September 2013

Iron Age Elderberries

It was the last Bank Holiday in August and the sun was still beaming it’s joyful rays onto the parched earth. 
Get Busy With the Fizzy
We decided to go to Danebury Iron Age Hill-fort for a summer picnic. We packed our bag, sandwiches, snacks and a bottle of vigorous home - made Elderflower Champagne and set off along the Test Way.
A Big, Fat Fish in the Test River

Danebury is the perfect spot for a run about with the children, but first we sat down to feed our poor starving mites and treated ourselves to some sparkling English Fizz, with one of the best views available in Hampshire.
and Relax...
After we had eaten, I set off with my son to hunt for Elderberries, I wanted to make port again; I have done this successfully for the past 2 years. As it turned out, we filled our boots with a sufficient quantity from the first small tree we came across. You can also make Elderberry cordial, jam and many other hedgerow recipes from this eldritch provider.
Later, we  found plenty of Blackberries and a crop of Raspberries, which we simply scoffed, as quickly as we could pick them. We also found loads of Juniper bushes, which was something of a revelation.
Ruby Red Raspberries
Juniper berries have a three year cycle (flowers, green berries, dark-blue berries) and they can all be present on one bush at the same time. These prickly bushes are related to Pine trees and the berries are actually tiny pine-cones.  The blue berries are used as herbs or spices when dried. They have many herbal uses and are also a significant part of the flavouring used in Gin!
Juniper Bushes
Sadly, like the Ash, Juniper bushes are currently under siege by a fungus, which is threatening their existence all over the country. Let’s hope that the arboricultural experts can do something to save all these trees. I’d hate to go through Summer without a cold G&T.
Ripe Juniper Berries
At one point the peaceful background hum of the countryside was shaken by the thumping of a Merlin engine and the iconic shape of a Spitfire roared into view across the trees. When it appeared, I had been thinking about the role of hill forts during the Roman invasion; the mysterious legend of the Angels of Mons crept into my mind. The plane vanished into the distance, like a ghost from the past, leaving nothing but blue sky. Looking back, the moment was so dreamlike and anachronistic that if I hadn't photographed it, I might doubt my own memory.
A Spitfire Over Danbury?

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