Townsend Meadow ~ Waiting For Rain And A Bit Of A Ramble About Wild Oats


Last night as I was watering at the allotment, dark clouds were building up in every quarter. I was sure it was going to rain. But no. By 8 pm they had moved off, leaving a strange red mist effect over Wenlock Edge. Beneath it the rapeseed crop is tinder dry and a deepening shade of copper. The wild oats on the path edge are ripening too – their cuneiform seed heads turned from green to pale ochre. I’m becoming a bit obsessed with trying to photograph them. They seem to reflect light that lends itself to a touch of abstraction.



The Wild Oat Avena fatua  is of course the parent plant of our cultivated oat and fully edible. It possesses the same valuable B vitamins and minerals: manganese, magnesium, potassium, iron, and chromium. Oats are very soothing to the system, apparently reducing inflammation. They also contain powerful antioxidants and are rich in fibre.

Wild oats, however, are considered a crop pest, especially in wheat, reducing the crop by up to 40%. They are also becoming resistant to herbicides, which fact certainly seems to be supported by their continued presence in Townsend Meadow, where they receive lots of herbicide doses every year. This is rather making me think that we should all be eating oats instead of wheat – without added glyphosate that is. Some of us might start feeling a lot better than we do after eating wheat products.

My Derbyshire farming ancestors seemed to have lived on oats, turned into tasty pancake-like oat cakes and made from a slightly fermented batter. Eaten with farm-made cheese and butter of course, and doubtless washed down with homebrewed ale.  A good number of them lived into their late eighties and early nineties. Some of them were known to go in for a little prize fighting and were quite famed for their prowess in the ring – and that was only the women.

And apart from all this, a handful of rolled oats tied up in some muslin, soaked in warm water and applied to the skin with some very gentle rubbing, makes the best exfoliant scrub ever.

56 thoughts on “Townsend Meadow ~ Waiting For Rain And A Bit Of A Ramble About Wild Oats

  1. Can’t say I sympathize with such violent and poisonous hostility towards wild oats. And as much as I do like oatmeal, what would life be like without wheat bread? Moreover, I believe it’s very healthy. From what I’ve read, the allergies to gluten, and like complaints are the result of commercial food preparations which sought to keep the fluff and get rid of the chunky parts and the fiber, not caring whether they lost nutrients. If we were to take a few steps back from commercial food preparation, we might all be healthier. Enjoyed the photographs, as usual.

    1. Oh I agree about the traditional old wheat varieties and their preparation. You already know I have a passion for Kamut, and also Spelt which the Romans grew. Modern breeding of wheat has massively increased the gluten content. Also in your neck of the woods and the Middle East in general, people know how to make good bread, flat or otherwise. If you’d been brought up on commercial English bread (bleached white, fibre-less, steam cooked and ready sliced in a plastic bag) it would indeed be a different story. We’ve only been making decent bread again in fairly recent times, and even so it’s only produced here and there by artisan bakers and millers and not always easy to find.

      1. Yes, I had the luck to be brought up on good bread. When I visited America, I was amused at what they called bread there (this was 50 years ago… I imagine things have changed), and for years I’ve been making my own bread about three times a week. So for me, bread is certainly an important staple.

      2. That’s one thing I rarely do – bake bread, and it’s not much good if you don’t get your hand in and do it regularly, so you really get to know your dough and cooking times.

  2. I do like oatmeal and try to have it for breakfast several times a week. I prefer steelcut but hard to get here. We really need to rise up against all these toxic sprays…they are doing us in .Do you know abouy “blinder waffels”? I make them with oats and buckwheat, when I can find that, or wild rice mix. Made with buttermilk it sets out over night before cooking.. Good stuff.

  3. Such a fount of knowledge you are, Tish 🙂 🙂 I like your abstract. Glad you weren’t discussing Graham’s wild oats 🙂 How big do zucchini grow before they’re edible? I shall feel quite guilty.

    1. That header photo is quite magnificent. As of course are the other two. What is it about angling like that to showcase magnificence. Other uses of oatmeal? My grandson had an oatmeal bath to relieve chicken-pox itching, and my daughter turns leftover porridge into pikelets for snacks.

      1. Porridge pikelets sound good, Meg. Also oat baths for chickenpox sounds v. soothing. I suppose these might work for all kinds of itching and irritation. But am not sure why angling photo shots sometimes really works.

    2. Is this a question related to wild oats?? Or do I just have a perverted mind? If you really want to know, when I was a zucchini farmer in another life I used to sell them as delicacies, flower attached, not much bigger than my finger. I also had a market for them as big as my forearm for stuffing.

      1. Well, you did make me chuckle. 🙂 🙂 I hadn’t related the two, but…. 🙂 And thank you for the helpful advice. There’s only one finger sized one on the plant so far, and a couple of promises. I’m loath to part it from it’s Mum. :

    3. You can eat them when they are quite tiny (couple of inches) if you like and have a lot. I usually pick them between 4 and 6 inches. If you use them while they are still little, they are fine chopped raw in salads with vinaigrette dressing. You can also eat the flowers, dipped in tempura batter and fried. I haven’t done this myself but they are delicious. Good thing to do when you’re sick of the zucchini.

      1. On a farm we did a house sit they had a huge veg garden and I despaired about keeping up with zucchini’s/marrows so I fed them to the cows,!!!

  4. I love oatmeal and eat it every day during the colder months. Let’s hope rain comes in the next 24 hours…some storms are forecast and then even hotter next week. Not the best gardening conditions. Everyone in Wales was getting nervous because of lack of water. Stay cool and have a relaxing evening. janet 🙂

    1. I might have exaggerated a bit about the ancestors. Though there was one Robert Fox, known as Bobbling Bob who in the early 1800s won a fight against Alfred Shaw, an English champion, at the Bell Inn, Hathersage, this after going 15 rounds with a cracked shoulder blade. What a yarn! 🙂

    1. They are very absorbing as they move in the evening breeze. Yesterday as the sun dipped over the Edge, the pale silvery seed heads were catching the last of the light, and I could see there were plants dotted across the entire rapeseed field, as well as big clump rising up in the middle. Just look at us, Monsanto! they were saying.

  5. hmmm – it seems to me that if wild oats are so insistent on growing in spite of the attempts to eradicate it, nature must be trying to send us a message …

    I LOVE the feature photo!

    1. I think they are quite a hardy upland crop, which is probably why they were a staple in the Derbyshire Peak District, which could be pretty bleak, and also further north in Scotland where they were also a staple crop. I also read that oats have been deemed to have aphrodisiac properties, which puts a different connotation on the sowing of wild ones 🙂

  6. I am sorry to hear that the rain didn’t eventuate but the upside of that is these lovely images. Being of Scottish extraction I am an oat fan all the way.

  7. I drove out to West Pentire yesterday – too late for the poppies and corn marigolds – annoyingly, but still some interesting flora. I think the fields had oats and wheat. I got a few photos so when I publish them you’ll have to let me know. Like you I was fascinated by the abstraction caused by the light. They (NT) use limited use of fertilisers and sprays on the arable fields and none whatsoever on the pasture so arable weeds can grow. I must visit this area in spring and again in June.

      1. Will do! Probably be included in my ‘changing seasons’ post at the end of the month if I don’t manage to post a solo image before then.

  8. A lovely series of photos (especially your feature photo – that perspective is so eye-catching & pleasing!) and a wonderful tribute to oats! Oats are a staple in my diet so I love all those benefits you have highlighted!

    Have you sampled the wild oats? I’m wondering if they taste any different from the cultivated variety.

    1. Many thanks, Ju-Lyn. I have been wondering whether to pick a few, or maybe a lot, as the seeds look pretty small and one might need a good bunch to get a comparative view. I’ll let you know if I give them a try. But I have read that some native American peoples used to harvest wild oats as a staple, using them whole in broth or ground into flour.

  9. Fascinating. I eat oats most mornings as a cholesterol declogging routine – often with a teaspoon of tart, home made raspberry conserve to sweeten – fancy trying the oat scrub if I can find the muslin!

    1. You can ‘scrub’ using the oats neat, though it can get horribly messy cleaning the bathroom afterwards! Tart homemade raspberry conserve sounds delicious.

      1. I know what you mean about the oats – once made a honey and oat facepack…. The rasp conserve is a dead easy low sugar alternative – often use glut or frozen rasps in small quantities with 50 percent sugar to fruit (or to taste) – cook for a few minutes in pyrex bowl the microwave until its soft set or just sticky on the spoon – then keep a ramekin in the fridge so were not using up large quantities.

  10. Lovely photos Tish and thanks for the list of benefits of oats, we have porridge every morning for breakfast in winter, knowing how good they are is going to make me feel even better. Interesting about the wild oats, the farmers would be wild about the effect they have on their crops

  11. It really is a great summer. Our valley park has a wild field that I’ve been watching this year. Most of the flowers are done now but some cornflowers and yellow daisy type are hanging on. I don’t know what the grasses are, they dominate now though. Last week there were caterpillars and butterflies and the swallows are teasing my dogs!

  12. I found your blog by googling Townsend Meadow near Wenlock Edge from Tish Farrell’s post. The pictures were beautiful and I was wondering where in the world this was. Your photos are also beautiful. I am amazed at the beauty this world has to offer, yet I have seen so little. For now……..

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