Where Trees Grow Calm ~ Thursday’s Special

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Here’s another place I never tire of photographing – the Linden Walk. Not only is it lovely of itself, but it also leads to Windmill Hill, that other object of my snapping affections. I took this photo yesterday with the leaves whisking off the trees. It was too windy for those addicting musky smells of autumn leaf litter, and the delicious summer scent of lime tree flowers was only a memory (until next year of course).

But whatever the weather or time of year, this lime tree avenue is always a very soothing place to walk. Its other-worldly quality takes you out of yourself: a pathway to another dimension perhaps? Doubtless the town’s  physician, Doctor Penny Brookes, who planted the trees in 1869 was well aware of the calming properties of lime trees since he was also a Padua-trained herbalist.

When made into a tea, the blossoms have a sedative effect. This was a recommended therapy during World War 2 (Richard Mabey Flora Britannica).

But in the absence of linden flower tea, here’s the lovely second movement ‘Petals’ from Takashi Yoshimatsu’s Piano Concerto Memo Flora;  Kyoko Tabe piano:


Post inspired as ever by Paula at Lost in Translation  Please pay her a visit. CALM is today’s watchword.

Over The Garden Fence At Sunset Yesterday


After tropical days in Wenlock we now have rain and more rain. There were showers between downpours for most of yesterday, and only at the last lap, as it was about to set, did the sun coming bursting hotly through the clouds. I caught its last beams here before it disappeared behind Wenlock Edge.

With all the sudden rain the wheat in the field behind our house is growing before our very eyes. So is our wildflower garden along the fence below it. Seen here are Moon Daisies (also known as Oxeye Daisy, Dog Daisy and Moonpenny). I love that last name. And keeping company with the daisies is one stately white foxglove, with a spray of cow parsley or Queen Anne’s Lace in the background.

According to Richard Mabey’s Flora Britannica  cow parsley (a member of the carrot family) has a whole lexicon of country names – some obvious, others not so. So here we go with a few more: Fairy Lace,  Spanish Lace, Mother die, Step-mother, Badman’s oatmeal, Blackman’s tobacco, Kecksie, and Rabbit meat.

And as for the foxglove, it was also known as Fairy Gloves and Fairy Bells. It has long been used as a herbal remedy that at times proved more killing than curing. And of course until recent times a compound version of  the toxin found in foxglove leaves was the drug of choice for various heart conditions.

It is anyway one of my favourite plants. I like the way it grows itself around the garden and crops up in a variety of subtle shades from white to purple, although it perhaps looks a little sinister, looming here in the failing light across Townsend Meadow.



Posted for:

Mundane Monday #63 at Jithin’s PhoTraBlogger

Stinking Nanny Anyone?


The shadowy margins of the Linden Walk near my house and the old railway line that runs alongside are presently lit by  white-star carpets. Ramsons. Stink Bombs. Stinking Nanny. Londoner’s Lilies. Thank you, Richard Mabey and your Flora Britannica for all these country names for wild garlic.

I know many people loathe the smell of this plant, and it can indeed be overpowering on warm days, but whenever I catch a whiff, it simply inspires me to cook. You can eat the leaves and flowers. On Friday I used them to make a pesto sauce to go with steamed carrots, assorted allotment greens and braised salmon.

This is what I did to make it:

  • Took a good handful of broken walnuts and lightly toasted them in a little olive oil
  • Roughly chopped a dozen flower heads and a small bunch of garlic leaves
  • Tipped all with the walnuts into a food processer
  • Added more olive oil to cover, salt, black pepper and squeeze of fresh lemon juice and blitzed. More oil can be added according to taste and requirements.

This is good with pasta, or spooned on the top of fresh-made soup, especially broad bean, or the classic pistou. In his Food for Free book Richard Mabey also quotes the sixteenth century writer, John Gerard, who writing in The Herbal (1597) says that in Europe the leaves are used to make a sauce to go with fish, and adds that these may:

very well be eaten in April and May with butter, of such as are of strong constitution, and labouring men.

And what about labouring women, good sir? This particular one has great liking for ramsons. In fact I’m thinking now of using them to lace a homemade tomato sauce. Bon Appétit , and happy foraging.

And please pop over to Jude’s Garden Challenge. This month she wants to see our wild flower photos.


It’s a wonderful world…


Earlier in the week, and in between leaf gathering for the allotment leaf mould project, finishing off a short story about Swahili spirit possession, I took myself on a wander around Wenlock’s byways to see what was what. We are very lucky in that respect. Our town is compact, having grown up around the medieval Wenlock Priory. One minute you’re on the High Street, the next you’re out in the Shropshire countryside. And there’s just so much to see out there.

This wild clematis, aka Old Man’s Beard, caught my eye (above and below). It was arching over the path beside the abandoned Shadwell Quarry, and had then anchored itself on the fence. I like the congruity of the barbed wire and the twining plant stem.

It comes into its own in the autumn with its feathery seed heads, and as you will see in a moment, it is an impressive climber.

During the summer it mostly creeps greenly through the trees and you tend not to notice it. I’m also grateful to Richard Mabey’s treasure book Flora Britannica for reminding me that another country name for this plant is Traveller’s Joy.  Mabey tells us that the plant was christened by 16th century botanist and herbalist, John Gerard who named it  thus because of its habit of ‘decking and adorning waies and hedges, where people travell’. He sounds like a sound chap, to pay tribute to the joy-making qualities of plant life.


Like many varieties of clematis, this one does have medicinal properties – for kidneys and skin complaints – but as the whole plant is very acrid, it requires careful preparation. The most common traditional use is to roll the dried stems and smoke them as cigarettes, hence the plant’s other names of boy’s bacca and smokewood.

But this next plant is definitely one you do NOT want to consume in any form, despite its being related to cucumbers. All parts of White Bryony are poisonous and cattle deaths from eating it have been well recorded. But in autumn it is so very beautiful, and twines through hedgerows like strings of red and gold amber beads.


The roots, though, are particularly toxic and grow very large. In 18th century Britain they featured in the mandrake root scam. Mandrake is a Mediterranean plant with a root that looks pretty much like a naked man or woman. It was in great demand as an aphrodisiac and narcotic. (If you know your Harry Potter, you will know that mandrake shrieks when it is being uprooted.) Unprincipled persons of the rabbit-catching variety thus began to fashion bryony roots into the highly desirable mandrake root. It was by no means an easy process either, and involved several phases to complete the subterfuge. Presumably the recipients did not live to tell any tales.


And here are some crab apples, Malus sylvestris  in Latin, woodland apples. They make brilliant, jewel like jelly which is good on toast or with roasts. Mabey says they are the ‘most important ancestor of the cultivated apple, M. domestica. More than 6,000 named varieties have been bred over the centuries, of which probably only a third still survive.’

I found these, a little bruised, beside the old railway line that once served Shadwell Quarry. Now a footpath, this is one of the town’s most attractive places to walk. Ash trees and ivy overhang the track these days, and it has an other-worldly feel, far removed from industrial quarrying, trucking and smelting .


It is hard to imagine that steam trains once came chugging down this track. The branch was built specifically to haul away Shadwell limestone to use as fluxing stone in the iron-smelting industry. In 1873, alone, 22,500 tons was shipped out of Wenlock.

You can walk ‘there and back’ along the path, or there’s a longer circular route that takes you across fields, and down the lane to the Priory and into town. Out in the fields I found that the rose-hips, fruits of wild roses,  were doing pretty good jewel impressions too. They are also known as heps or itchy-coos.


The fruit have hairy insides which are a powerful irritant (and presumably much known to aggravate the coos or cows), but once removed, the hips have highest vitamin C content of any common native British fruit. During World War 2 and into the 1950s there was a national campaign to collect hips to make syrup according to Ministry of Food guidelines. It involved much mincing, stewing and straining, and a lot of sugar which I think was possibly counterproductive health benefit-wise. Nonetheless, caring mothers spooned it into their children.  Some of us will still remember the taste.


Finally a note about this post. Apart from celebrating the Shropshire countryside, it’s also inspired by 1) Lucile Godoy at Photo Rehab and Perelincolors who in Tech of the Month have been urging us to ‘fill the whole picture’ in our compositions. See their blogs for some useful guidance. (Photos here taken with a Kodak EasyShare 380).

And 2) by Jo’s Monday Walk.

Happy composing and walking everyone.

copyright 2015 Tish Farrell

Return to Windmill Hill: Of Grasshopper Stalking, Lady’s Bedstraw And Other Random Discoveries


Today I thought it was time to check on the floral happenings in our remnant of limestone meadow up on Windmill Hill. It’s a few weeks since I was last up there, and the spring flowers are giving way to summer species. Perhaps one of  the most pleasing finds were these drifts of Lady’s Bedstraw,  seen here below the windmill.

It is also called Lady’s Tresses, and  it smells of honeyed summer pasture. Once it would be gathered and dried and included with the straw that was used to fill mattresses. It was often chosen for the beds of pregnant women, so surrounding those in their confinement with soothing wafts of sweet hay scents.

I think this is a practice we could revive, not that we are allowed to harvest wild flowers. I’m envisaging now a pillow filled  with golden stems. Surely it would be just the thing to send us sleep-fractured souls back to dreamland. And even if it didn’t, it would make being wakeful a pleasure.


The spotted orchids  I first found last month for Meg are nearly over (by the way, you should see Meg’s sundews found in Australia’s  Stanthorpe granite country over at Snippetsandsnaps). But following on from the common spotted are the pyramidal orchids, which range in colour from lipstick pink to purple. I also discover from plantlife.org.uk that these, like many orchids, require the presence of a particular fungus in the soil in order to flower.


I also discover from Richard Mabey’s treasure of a book, Flora Britannica,  that when the Victorian art critic, John Ruskin, learned that the name orchid derived from the Greek word orkhis  meaning testicle, he urged that the flower’s name be changed to wreathewort. Personally, I don’t think this any sort of improvement. The man was a prude. Besides, the reason that orchids are named after testicles is because their roots’ appearance do a pretty good impersonation of same. Doubtless this was why they were long considered a useful remedy for a lapsed libido – a herbal fancy and fallacy I imagine, so do  not try this at home.

While I was scrabbling around on my knees in the grass, thinking what strange things I have started doing since joining WordPress, I became distracted by a grasshopper. This is not the greatest shot. He is lurking on the leaves of greater knapweed, Centaurea scabiosa. Very well camouflaged I thought.



While I was down there, because believe me, once you get down on your knees you need to make the most of it, I also discovered some Lady’s Bedstraw caught inside a web. It looks like a shroud. You can just see the tiny spider due south of the flower:


And now here is one of Windmill Hill’s  more sinister-looking plant specimens, – the very upright prickly spires of Viper’s bugloss. Apparently the flower’s fruits resemble adders’ heads, and other names include adderwort and snake flower. As well as colonising limestone areas, you will also find it growing on chalky and industrially contaminated soils. Like other members of the Echium family, which includes borage and comfrey, it is attractive to bees.


And here’s another bee favourite – Wild Thyme:


Thyme is of course a must in the kitchen. It is also a common medicinal herb. All forms of the plant contain the volatile oil thymol, a powerful antiseptic, which is often included in cough mixtures. I use thyme (fresh or dried) steeped in hot water with honey and fresh lemon juice when I have a cold or cough.

And talking of thyme, it’s time to head for home. So I’ll leave you with one last view of the windmill and some more flowers named after testicles. Not that it’s in any way connected, but I had to lie down in the grass to take this shot – a fine way for the minuting secretary of Much Wenlock Civic Society to conduct herself. It was just as well there were none of the usual walkers and their dogs around for me to frighten:


This excursion, but naturally not the bit about the orchid’s etymology, was inspired by Jo’s Monday Walk. Please join her there for some fascinating rambles.

copyright 2105 Tish Farrell