Sometime ago I found a recipe in a library book for Hedgerow Jam and resolved that when the time was right I would try it. On Saturday after lunch I duly set off in search of the required ingredients including sloes, which I have always felt I should be able to make use of but as I don't like gin and I have never known what else to use them for I have until now left on the bushes! They are so beautiful and look like something Mediterranean I always think.
I decided to make this outing a Bus Pass, Boots and Backpack one and duly set off to catch the bus to the next village - a distance of just over 2 miles which takes about 5 minutes in the car. I haven't yet found a straightforward route to walk it and walking along the A30 is not to be recommended as it is narrow, busy and in many places has no verge let alone a footpath. The route the bus took was roundabout and we passed through several small villages and along single track lanes reaching West Coker in about 25 minutes. I set off to climb to the Ridge and this is the view looking back.
Once on the Ridge this is the view looking across the other side and is one of my favourites - I want my ashes sprinkled here when I die!
Isn't it stunning? And just look at the sky - always changing, always huge and beautiful. I found masses of hawthorn berries and some rosehips on my climb up and then walking round this field I gathered some sloes and blackberries along with some elderberries.
Having packed my bounty into my rucksack I made my way back to the village - ever mindful that I mustn't be late or I would miss the bus and there wouldn't be another till Monday! Look at that patch of bright sunlight over there whilst everywhere else is in shadow - interesting isn't it?
Back in the village now and a short walk along the road to the bus stop and home. I hadn't found any rowan berries nor any crab apples but I knew my neighbour has a crab apple tree in her garden and as luck would have it when I was passing her house she was just arriving back from somewhere and I was able to ask her if she used them all or if not whether I might have a few. She said of course and I was able to pop back and pick up some of the windfalls after I'd deposited my backpack and its contents and had a cuppa. So then I had everything except the rowanberries. I decided to leave it all till Sunday and if it was fine - some hope as we were forecast heavy rain and strong winds - I knew where I could find some half an hour's walk from here. I knew where there were some much nearer but I wanted them from somewhere well away from the roads and traffic fumes.
The forecasters were wrong about the rain and winds early in the day and by lunchtime on Sunday I had all the ingredients I needed. Seems a shame to cook these doesn't it?!
I spent a happy rainy afternoon (yes the forecast was right by then) - it was very time consuming - picking over all the fruit and weighing it and boiling and then sieving it all and then adding sugar and testing for set and so on but I eventually finished up with these - the one at the front is for the neighbour who so kindly gave me the apples. I don't think I shall be going into production any time soon though as it did take absolutely ages especially if you factor in the three hours on Saturday and an hour on Sunday spent doing my hunter gatherer bit. I also seemed to have the kitchen worktops covered with pans and bowls and wooden spoons all liberally stained with purple, there were piles of washing up to do and cartons of leftover pulp to take out to the compost bin not to mention splatters of juice on my clothes.
Now some might say why on earth go to all that effort; why not just buy a pot of jam? I think we are hard wired to provide for ourselves and in doing so we meet some fundamental need going back through the centuries. It might be time consuming and labour intensive but it is also extremely satisfying in a way that a jar of industrial (or even home made by somebody else) jam can never be. And when it's taken so much time in the fresh air and exercise in the walking to find the necessary ingredients as well as the physical labour of the cooking then I feel no sense of guilt at spreading a slice of bread with butter and topping it with some of the resulting spread for surely the exercise will counter the calories I eat!!