Diary - 03/09
Diary - Mar 2009
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March 2009


Everyone's busy doing what? Find out in the gallery below ...


We celebrated the Spring Equinox by making our first visit to the Sanctuary since last Christmas. The weather was beautifully warm and I started the annual digging and weeding while Chris cut back the ivy hanging over the grass. It was so heavy and low, we couldn’t walk underneath the branches any longer.

The demise of the mulberry tree was a sad event, but it has definitely opened up the views across the valley. We took the trunk up to the rickyard in the car boot and hopefully, when it has dried out, my father will be able to create something beautiful and practical from the wood, as he has with the bowls made from our cherry tree last year.

We covered the space where the tree was with two new old fashioned, deeply scented roses – William Shakespeare and Rosa Mundi. Two more were planted in front of the summer house and a climbing rose now sits beside the top seat. All we have to do now is to create something for it to climb up. Hopefully, there will be masses of rose petals this summer to make lots of infused honeys and vinegars.

Chris also helped my father collect an enormous piece of Cotswold stone which had been ploughed up in the Autumn. The farmer who has the use of the fields is intending to plant lucerne there for the next five years and used a large plough with deep ploughshares to turn over the soil. This has brought lots of stones and sand dollars to the surface of the fields.

The only problem with holding workshops in the Sanctuary is the vagaries of the weather. Last March we experienced bright sunshine mixed with snow showers. This year the forecast was for the coldest day in a very cold week. I half hoped the weather forecasters would get it wrong, but they didn’t. It was bitterly cold with a biting wind which blew everywhere.

Last minute bookings lead me to expect twenty adults with the possibility of three children. As it turned out, due to life events and other extenuating circumstances we greeted thirteen adults and two children – the younger of whom was six years old. There was no doubt it was spring with all the daffodils and primroses nodding an enthusiastic golden welcome.

I’m always amazed how far people come to experience the Sanctuary and the lengths they are prepared to go to in order to arrive. Four people - Maddie, Martin, Julie and Mike - are regular attenders. Val, Jackie and Kerry had been to workshops in Solihull and wanted to continue their herbal journey. For Teresa, Kaz, Dee, Robert and the family of four who brought Val to the Sanctuary, it was their first visit. They came from Bath, Hereford, Wales, Cornwall and Birmingham. I’m still waiting for local residents to wake up to the resource which is offered on their doorstep!

Did I mention it was cold? I’d warned everyone to bring lots of warm clothes and most people coped while we were walking around the boundaries and herb beds but it was more difficult sitting on the veranda eating our lunch with the wind blowing after a light shower of hail!

We started off with a cup of hot nettle tea, then walked the beds to see how the plants and trees were shooting. Everything was growing vigorously, from the tiny purple shoots of the Echinacea, to the well-established comfrey leaves and delicate bergamot. Chunky mint roots and brilliant red dyers woodruff roots were also in evidence.

Anyone who comes to one of my workshops has to taste things they’ve never tasted before. This month it was dandelion roots (still large and sweet despite the season), sorrel leaves, violet leaves, St John’s wort shoots, primrose flowers and angelica leaves, although the latter wasn’t compulsory because of its very bitter flavour.

After lunch, those who wanted to make a vinegar gathered nettles or dug up whatever bramble roots they could find. Julie, Dee and I put together a special tonic for Karen, who was sitting up in hospital after her serious car accident for the first time and couldn’t be with us.

I’d dug up an amazing selection of enormous dandelions with lots of leaves whilst I was weeding the main herb bed. The unusual thing about them was that the roots were whole and not hollow like the roots I dug up from the field next to the bungalow in January.

1. Trimming the ivy 2. Farewell to the mulberry tree 3. Just look what we found growing in the fields! 4. Thick dandelion roots 5. Making bramble root vinegar 6. Preparing Karen’s tonic
7. Nettle iron tonic 8. Horsechestnut leaves 9. Quince leaves 10. Meddlar leaves 11. Damson leafbuds 12. Spindle leaves
13. Witchhazel leaves 14. Twisted hazel catkins 15. Holly saplings to plant in the hedge 16. Vibrant spring nettles 17. Heliotrope 18. Chives
19. Spotted cuckoo pint          

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