Into the woods…

Yesterday afternoon I was starting to feel a bit woolly headed so decided to head out for a potter to get some fresh air (and escape from the home working environment). Luckily we live about 15 mins walk from an ancient woodland called Norsey Woods, so I headed up there. I thought I could kill three frugal birds with one stone – enjoy a free trip out somewhere, get some free exercise for that mini Dunlop around my middle, and maybe collect some blackberries from the forest along the way.

When I was a kid we used to go blackberry picking in Hainault Forest and then and bake a delicious blackberry pie. Unfortunately our lovely oven has packed in and I’ve not yet got round to getting it fixed so a pie was probably not on the cards, but blackberries also taste great with ice cream. Although I’m not sure how eco-friendly it is nowadays to pick berries from the wild – I think technically you’re supposed to leave them for the birds but I’m sure they won’t mind if you just pick a handful.

After an afternoon spent staring at the computer, entering the woods was like stumbling across an alien world. The huge expanse of woodland was completely empty apart from myself and one couple and their two dogs I briefly encountered in a clearing among the trees. Oh, and the two squirrels and a rabbit I met bounding through the undergrowth. Fab! It was such a treat to wander through the cool green vegetation completely alone and with no sound but the gentle wind rustling in the trees….What a great way to spend a few hours and it hadn’t cost me anything. Er…before I get carried away with the poetry of it all, it was just a tiny bit eery though, especially as Norsey Woods is best known as the site of a massacre during the peasants’ revolt…mmm…I stumbled across a sign denoting an ancient burial ground on my walk and hastily continued on my way. I hadn’t told DJ where I was going so hoped the gps on my mobile phone would help Horatio Kane or whoever find me if the peasants rose again….(sorry I watch far too much CSI for my own good)…

One slight disappointment was the poor availability of the blackberries, though. Perhaps I’d got the time of year wrong and it was earlier in September than I remembered that we used to pick them, but there were actually more juicy looking ones on the blackberry bush in our back garden than here. Most looked dried up, although there were a few good looking ones that I decided to leave for the wildlife after tasting one particularly delicious one. I certainly was over ambitious with the plastic bag I’d brought with me.

A while back we went on a wild food walk with a guide, but despite listening diligently I’ve long forgotten much of what he told us – apart from how there were a hundred and one things that you could eat that could easily be mistaken for something deadly. So it’s probably high time I looked into that once more. Certainly, while I might not have come back clutching armfuls of blackberries, the walk has made me mindful of the fact that there’s plenty of stuff in our back garden that is going to waste, like all the apples on our tree and things like nettles that you can make tea or soup out of.  Has anyone got any good ideas/recipes for free food from the wild? If so, post a comment.

Which reminds me…the chickens have been on the loose in our back garden for the past half hour and are no doubt about to engage in their own free food foray into the vegetable patch for DJ’s tomatoes….! Adios!

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