Monday, 22 June 2015

Summertime Foraging Fun

Summer is finally establishing itself in Southampton. We went for a meandering walk with friends along the river beautiful Itchen. I was pleased to spot a nice looking apple tree by a car park in Shawford before we set off; I duly added this to the Falling Fruit map. The atmosphere was heady and the smell of Elderflowers hung heavily in the air.
The route took us up-river past Compton Lock, which is always a fabulous place for a fun swim. We used to cycle to this spot during teenage summer holidays. 
We passed under the M3 motorway and watched swooping swallows catching bugs under the bridge. Despite the wonderful countryside surrounding us, the kids seemed to enjoy being under the massive bridge and hung around here for some time. 
Then it was a short but extremely steep climb up the ancient hill fort of St Catherine’s with the sunshine hammering down from above. The view over Winchester and the water-meadows is truly spectacular. 
We saw several Walnut trees, some of which seem to have had the ends of the branches somehow damaged. People had been having fires on top of the hill amongst the beeches, which must be nice, but some idiots had been setting a fire in the bowl of one of the largest trees – It is difficult to believe the stupidity of this action.
I also noticed a couple of Juniper bushes clinging to the steep ramparts. I have seen Junipers at Figsbury, Danbury and Winchester Hill forts. We found Walnut trees at Badbury Rings as well as here. Walnut (and Apple) trees were introduced to Britain by the Romans and Juniper is thought to be the only native fir tree in the UK. These are curious connections, well worth wondering about.
After a picnic and a run around the mysterious Mismaze atop the hill, we set off back down the Itchen. After a sweltering ramble in the Summer sun, Compton Lock always seems an impossibly perfect place to cool your jets. Wild Swimming is all the rage now and the water is deep enough in places to invite leaping into the cold river for a frolic with the fishes.
The shock of the chilly water will certainly refresh you after a long hot walk but the children were soon shivering like leaves in the wind. We dried them off and set off for home, pausing only to grab a bag-full of Elderflower heads to create thirst quenching Cordial and Champagne on our return. 
We also spotted that cherries are ripening. At last, after all the stress of finishing the book, the free fruit foraging fun finally begins...

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