Preparation for the walk started the night before, when Solomon and I made bread to accompany the jam.

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Kneading the dough quite late at night

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Hands hard at work

We had another massive turnout on Saturday 17th October.  We started off thinking about how we prepare for winter, from buying some thermals to doing preserves of jam and chutneys. We walked from Wyck Gardens over to Ruskin Park and stayed in the Northway Road entrance area. I’ve been scouring the park for Sloes but I haven’t found any. I’d brought some sloes with me that I’d picked near Lewes in Sussex and others on Romney Marsh in Kent. Various people tried them raw and I wish I’d taken a photo of their faces as they did. Sloes are safe to eat but they immediately dry the mouth as they are strongly astringent.  The flowers are laxative (also a diuretic, good for cystitis and rheumatism) and the fruits are ‘binding’ and full of Vitamin C.  The  small fruits are the ancestor of the plum, measure around 9 – 15mm and have an attractive blue-black tinge and greenish flesh inside.  The fruits are good for jellies and gin.

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Gathering in Ruskin Park

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Picking up horse chestnuts. Can't eat those though!

 Horse chestnuts are apparently a good remedy for varicose veins and there’s a recipe in the Grow your own drugs book for this.  Conkers are best known for their game playing potential but Conkers as a game hasn’t really made a come back. Not yet.

This lot might get into it. Conkers have such a nice, shiny, cool feel. Lovely for counting games with the under 5s.
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One for you and one for you!

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Looking at chickweed or yarrow

I haven’t got round to learning about mushrooms yet. In the meantime, here is one possible way of learning, workshops and forays around London.

 http://www.fungitobewith.org/

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Funghi in Ruskin Park

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Ancient Hawthorn trees were used as public meeting places

 We looked extensively as Hawthorn. The Bright scarlet one is Midland Hawthorn and the Duller Crimson is Hawthorn. You can eat the leaves in Spring and use the spring flowers in syrups and puddings and I’ve heard it makes an excellent wine. A delicious toast for an end of year celebration. A reminder of the spring that is round the corner.  An infusion of the flowers and leaves is a cardiac sedative, it dilates the blood vessels, lowers the blood pressure and I’ve even seen it in the Grow your own drugs as part of the ingredients for a cholesterol reducing tonic.   I’ve also read that it is not a plant to use for self-medication. If you’ve got a heart problem, get specialist help.  However, I really believe in the long term benefit from the careful and informed use of plants in your diet.

 The berries, ready from August to October are good for jellies and chutney. hawthorn chutney

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Walkers taking over Northway Road!

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A wild patch on the corner of Coldharbour and Loughborough. Too many cars to pick here though

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Nice bouncy bush of mallow, loads of plantain too

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Refreshments. The bottles of gin were to make sloe gin!

 We made ourselves at home in the Boardroom underneath Harper House and had refreshments including elderflower, mint and yarrow tea, lemon balm tea and dandelion root coffee.  We ate the bread Solomon and I made last night with apple jelly (from crab apples on the estate). Marion brought a spelt cake, delicious with a real almond kick.  We relaxed for a bit, and did some drawing.

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Boys drawing plants

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More drawing

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Everyone destalking the sloes

 Then we started making the gin. All (washed) hands to the job! Some people brought their own sterilised bottles for decanting.

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Double checking and Sorting through the sloes

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Pricking the sloes so the juices run ...

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Sterilised needles to do the job. This was a double prick technique someone devised on the day!

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The Gin goes In

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Give it a stir for good luck

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Filling up the bottles again

This is Althea who was 40 weeks pregnant, a wild food enthusiast, and gave birth to a son 3 days after the walk.  Welcome to the World! We’ll toast you both with this gin, when it’s ready, at the Christmas feast

sloe gin