Monthly Archives: October 2013

The origins of Halloween and the plants associated with it

Halloween is believed to trace back to a Celtic festival called Samhain.  This marked the end of Summer and, thus, the start of Winter.  This was an important time for societies in which winter survival was by no means guaranteed, as it meant the end of the harvest period.  As winter was associated with darkness and an increased likelihood of death, so was Halloween.  The Druids believed that the spirits of those who died during the preceding year roamed the earth on the night of Samhain. Continue reading

Why people my age cannot create a wild flower meadow, Part 1

A bold claim and, of course, a ‘not totally’ true one.  It turns on two things: firstly, the assumption that I cannot expect to live for much more than a further 30-40 years, and secondly, our chosen definition of what a wild flower meadow actually is.  In this first of three posts I will cover what we consider a meadow to be. Continue reading

Two berries to look out for in October that have interesting stories to tell

Elder is a very common deciduous shrub or small tree of woodlands and hedgerows.  Elder berries are mildly toxic (as are most parts of the plant) and were not eaten raw.  However they have been used to make wine, jam, jelly and puddings.  The flowers are used to make a delicate wine, a cordial, and fried in batter as fritters. Continue reading

A visit to the normally off limits Northey Island

Northey Island is a 300 hectare island in the River Blackwater, about a mile away from Maldon. It is linked to the mainland by a causeway, which is submerged for two hours either side of high tide.  Owned by the National Trust, it is normally off limits to the likes of you and I.  So it is a part of Essex that few people get to see.  But once every two years or so the Trust organise a visitors event, so yesterday (Sunday 13 October) I went along to find out more. Continue reading

Autumn Fruits Foray around Hillhouse Wood, Colchester

In the odd moment I get when not counting the vast profits we’re making from the Naturetale app, or planning where to buy the next of my country retreats, I volunteer for the Friends of Hillhouse Wood.  On the basis that everyone else ‘took a step back’, I have found myself leading wildlife walks around the wood. Last Saturday I led a new one for us. Continue reading

Fordham Hall estate – an awful lot out of nothing at all

Fordham is a perfectly pleasant, but otherwise unremarkable small village in north east Essex.  Until ten years ago it was surrounded by typical East Anglian arable prairie, with all the lack of wildlife that goes with this.  Most of this land was part of one 500 acre unit, which formed a large ‘U’ shape around the village.

It so happened that this unit came up for sale. Continue reading