Thursday, December 17, 2009

Passed Over and Pissed On

A nice Sunday walk in October above Dunscombe to pick sloes on the cliff hedgerows. My two friends manage to pick three pounds of sloes in about an hour as I arse about taking photos. As sloes are not particularly pleasant to eat these have been earmarked for the production of Sloe Gin by a local chef. Haws were eaten in Neolithic times and according to fairy lore sloes should be picked until the eve of November, after which they become the property of the fairys who have passed over them. Blackberries are said locally to be pissed on by the devil at about the same time.

The berries shown on the trees in the later photos are on the Hawthorn trees and are known unsurprisingly as Haws. They are edible and used to make jellies, syrups, sauces and liqueurs, in the same method as Sloe Gin and a wine can also be made as well as adding them to brandy. Drinking is quite big at this time of year.


nobody said...

Too many good photos in there John. Those first three are mad. You should paint them.

Weird how much like blueberries sloes look. Blueberries used to be very foreign things here but now they are common and I have them every morning with my muesli. Blackberries here are an uber pest and any any landowner who has them is required to destroy them. Which is kind of a shame since I have very fond memories of blackberry picking when I was a kid in Salisbury. Oh, and if you drink too much sloe gin do you get sloe-eyed? That sounds alright!

john said...

Thanks nobody

I've been using some of the photos to paint from, it makes a nice change to be working on landscapes and in oils too, just like a proper artist, its a nice way to spend some time.

We get wild blueberries here too known as whortleberries. You can see the low bushes in the photos of the foggy pines where we were picking them. The sloes are usually bigger.

Blackberries grow everywhere here and are a great source of free food though they cover the ground at an alarming rate so I can see why they are considered a pest.

As children we used to have Raspberries from the garden in our cornflakes. Sometimes we were overrun with ants and I can remember eating such a bowl of cornflakes and seeeing ants rising slowly to the surface of the milk.

Penny said...

John I love the second picture, the two trees side by side, or two parts of one, whichever?

Anyway doesn't it look like one tree is screaming and the other one is turned away, trying to ignore the loud, angry one?

Can't you see the faces?
The expressions?

nobody said...

Whortleberries! That's marvellous. "My stammit filgring is knursted with whortleberries." To which the only sensible response would be 'Oh arrrrh'. Ha ha ha.

john said...

Cheers Penny

Some of the trees have quite a bit of personality round here, especially the ones on the hilltops where these were taken as they get bent by the wind and elements. Up on Dartmoor there are little horizontal oak trees, old trees but tiny, hugging the ground. I'll try and get up there again and take some photos.

Wistmans Wood is up there which is quite famous. You're not really allowed into the wood though I know of other small ancient woods on Dartmoor to visit.

Cheers nobody, as the maid would have it "That's right buyh!" which is about as close as I can get to the pronunciation.

The rest of the country is covered in snow but only a few flakes around here for us soft southerners.

nobody said...

Woods that you're not allowed into? Why not? And how does that work? Who says you may not go in and how do they enforce it? All curious me...

john said...

In the case of Wistmans Wood it is a National Nature Reserve administered by Natural England, there is a fence all around what's left of the ancient wood and people are urged not to enter to protect it.

Natural England is a new body formed in 2006, so expect a top heavy paper shuffling expense account organisation.

As long as I can remember, the wood has been off limits though the fence is small and can be easily climbed over.

On the subject of woods you're not allowed into, there are plenty of these. Most of the UK countryside is privately owned, much of it by just a few people.

As a young and ignorant lad I once cycled to a nearby wood that I spotted on the map for a walk, only to be escorted out of the woods by two tweeded men with shotguns, tresspassing, as they would have it. It came as a huge surprise to me that anyone could actually own a wood as I had presumed that they were wild places for the pleasure of all, not the case at all. I had a lot to learn about my place in this country.

Ever since then, when encountering a sign saying 'No Entry - Private Property' etc. whenever out in the country, I just climb over the gate and go right ahead, a tactic that has won me many friends here. If questioned I plead ignorance and confusion, which I am quite believeable at feigning.

nobody said...

Ha Ha! The very tactic I employed in Japan to great effect. I'd speak Japanese, and very politely sure enough, but explain (with perfect hand on my heart truth) that I couldn't read the signs that, um... barred the way in. "Oh, is this bad? Were we not meant to come in? Sorry! I have committed a rudeness!"

Otherwise I guess it stands to reason. Of course you can own woods. Thinking of Silverfish, he's got thousands of acres of oak forest. Hmm... it'd be nice to own a forest wouldn't it?

john said...

Yes it would be nice to own a forest. I've looked into it here but it's always been more money than I've had. Even though I don't own any of it I still get to walk around in plenty and I have some time to do that which not many people have, so I consider that a bonus.

I hope everyone gets a better Christmas than last year. I could do without any more surprises of the Israeli sort, but we'll wait and see there. So much trouble everywhere, wars, homeless people in the snow... it can't be right.

It's Christmas Eve! I hope you all have a good Christmas and thank you all for the lovely comments, you have made doing the blog a much nicer thing. All the best to you all for the new year.

Penny said...


Merry Christmas, a Very Merry Christmas.....

No Bah Humbugs!

the Silverfish said...

Awh shucks guys I do own a forest, all five thousand acres of it and let me tell you it's not all that it's cracked up to be. What with all of the wildlife that one has to put up with.
As far as trespassing goes I have signs posted every 50 meters which read "No Trespassing, Guard dogs on duty and will attack". It's mostly to keep hunters at bay but call me quirky if you want but the way I figure it as soon as someone else pays the taxes on my land then and only then do they have the right to tread on my grass.

Oh and have a merry whatever it is that you all celebrate.

john said...

Cheers Penny and thanks. Christmas all going well here with no bah humbugs so far. A nice quiet day yesterday, all the traffic is back as normal today as the driving up and down and spendfest continues with the sales starting this morning.

Cheers Silverfish. Blimey, five thousand acres! Isn't that a small country? I was thinking of the responsibilities of owning land when I said that it's easier to walk through other peoples woodland, and taxes, don't they ever end? As for tresspassing, I don't trash fences, I'm not on the rob and apart from actually being on someone elses land, I treat it with respect. In all this time I haven't really got into any trouble and have had more bother with dogs in places we're all allowed to be.

Anyway if I get a bit lost when out walking and find myself in a place that has signs saying "No Trespassing, Guard dogs on duty and will attack" every 50 metres, I'll scoot round that bit if you like.

Hope you're having a good one Silverfish.

su said...

The two pictures of the sun shining through the clouds onto the water.
Could there be anything more illuminating than this.
Wishing you all a year of ease and understanding.

john said...

Cheers and thanks very much Su.

We are fortunate to see such things from the clifftops here. The view out to sea and of the sky and their operations are seen without anything else getting in the way.

It's scale that I find impressive up there, it all looks huge and I am only looking at a small part of it all.

Thanks again and all the best to you and yours for the new year Su.