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Blog, Events, Foraging, hay festival, Uncategorized

Hay Festival

Image via The Telegraph
Image via The Telegraph


Now then, I know 10 am might sound early but think of me…I’ll have been up all night panicking so I’ll need to see friendly faces. Please come and give me and Lizzie a warm welcome! She’ll be drawing, live, and you’ll see the drawing come to life on a gigantic screen. I’ll be telling you all about how to eat your garden before the slugs can get to it.

Blog, Events, Foraging, Sweets

Crickhowell Walking Festival on 1st March

….is sold out, although there are lots of other lovely walks during the festival. Have a look here!

Incidentally, I’ll be making Kendal mintcake for the event, which I’m hoping Jules at Black Mountain Gold will dip in chocolate. It’s highly likely that, as usual, I’ll make too much, and it’s also highly likely that some of the excess will be available at both Jules’ place and at Book-ish, so if you’re in town, have a mooch around both shops and pick some up!

Blog, Events, hay festival

Hay Winter Festival

Ever tried a sherbet lemon cocktail? Or a bonfire toffee one? If you’re at my talk about Great British Sweets this Sunday, part of the Hay Winter Weekend, at the Swan Hotel Ballroom, I’ll be  sloshing shaking and stirring and you’ll be sampling and giggling. The Ballroom is a suitable lavish and rococo setting for such a grown up event.  you might need to cut and paste this link since I still haven’t worked out how to do it properly.

Blog, Books, Events, Foraging, General, Nature, Photos, Uncategorized

Posh Foraging all over the UK


I have been VERY slack at posting info here (slaps wrist) but all that is about to change. There’s so much going on this year that I’m going to make a concerted effort to post here regularly so that anyone who is interested can see what I’m up to and maybe even come along to a forage somewhere!


The first bit of exciting news is The Hedgerow Handbook is released, in France, in French, on June 4th. The publisher is Larousse, which makes the whole thing even more of a thrill for me, because I still treasure a heavy yellow and black volume, The Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology, which I loved and a kid and which is still a favourite.

More news tomorrow. Until then…au revoir!

Blog, Events

St Valentines Day…uncovering some of the truth!


Valentine’s Day

(This is taken from The Signs and Symbols Sourcebook, Harper Element)

The original Valentine was an amalgamation of two or three different
men, all named Valentine, and all martyred to the Christian
cause; one of them was either martyred or buried in Rome on
February 14. However, a certain amount of “spin” was necessary to
make St. Valentine fit convincingly as a replacement for the existing
pre-Christian Lupercalian excesses. A story was put about that
Valentine defied the Emperor Claudius’ decree that fighting men
should not have sexual relations in case their strength was sapped. The
Emperor was not in favour of the new religion and to be a Christian at
this time was hazardous to the health, but Valentine continued to
proselytize despite the sentence of death that hung over the heads of
anyone caught doing so. Later, he presided over illicit Christian weddings.
According to another legend, prior to his execution, he fell in love
with the jailer’s daughter and left her a note with the words “from
your Valentine” written on it. Part of the Lupercalian festivities
included the young men drawing lots for available young women; these couples
then spent time together during the festival, with sex the main agenda. The
Church invented a lottery, too, although it was a slightly tamer version.
People pulled the names of various Christian saints out of the hat, and then
attempted to emulate these worthies for the rest of the year. Understandably,
this custom failed to excite people’s imaginations as much as its saucier
forerunner and drawing lots to put couples together started again in
the fifteenth century, a sort of medieval version of speed dating,
except faster, although its intentions were supposedly more innocent
than those of the Lupercalia. Despite this, it proved very difficult
to suppress the memory of the Lupercalia, and today the Church
rarely celebrates St. Valentine. However, as a secular celebration
of love and romance Valentine’s Day is a great success. The heart,
as the major symbol of love, is seen everywhere at this time.

Blog, Events, Foraging, General, Photos

Forgotten Landscapes foraging at the Abergavenny Food Festival

Enjoying a cup of coffee in the backstage bit of the Abergavenny Food festival, got chatting to a girl called Denise, who proved to be the most widely-read food blogger in Wales. The next day she came along to the forage at Clydach Gorge and subsequently wrote this fab piece. She is the only person who has even guessed, pretty much outright, the secret ingredient in the chocolate truffles that I sometimes make!
The pics on my page here are by the amazing Julia Horton-Powdrill who founded the Really Wild festival in Pembrokeshire (



The Clydach fig tree…how did it get there?


An interesting tree…


Blog, Events, Nature

A Good Day Out…with hedgehogs


About a year ago, a woman I’d got to know, Julia Blazer, told me about an idea she’d had. ‘You know how brilliant it is when people buy you an experience as a present instead of just another THING? Well, wouldn’t it be great if you could buy someone an experience – something really really different – that had an added value? What if you could offer something that was a good day out in more than one way?’

Julia’s idea was to compile a selection of experience days based around good causes. My initial reaction was one of scepticism, on two levels. Could this be construed as being too goody-goody to be fun? After all, charitable giving tends to err on the side of duty rather than pleasure. My second concern was for Julia herself. Something of a maverick genius, and an artist herself, I was worried that she could end up spending a lot of time and effort putting something together that just wouldn’t be commercially viable.

A few months later, though, and the website for A Good Day Out was up and running. Seeing all the different experiences that Julia has put together suddenly made me ‘get’ the appeal. You can choose from a diverse range of experiences selected to appeal to all interests, age groups and price ranges: to be perfectly honest I’d like to have a go at all of them. Bushcraft and Falconry, Canyoning, mountaineering with navigation? Yep. Sculpture, pottery or needle felting? Yep. A cruise with music, lessons in astronomy or even having a go at hedgelaying? Yes, yes and yes!

When i was a kid I reckoned myself as a hero to wildlife. That is, I’d rescue spiders and re home them away from plugholes, had hand-reared orphaned birds, and, best of all, had a ‘pet’ baby hedgehog whose life I was convinced I had saved when I’d found him cornered by cats. So when it came to buying myself a birthday present I opted to make my dreams come true (for a few hours at least) by opting for the Hedgerow Helper experience.

At Howey Hedgehog Rescue, me and 2 other rookie hedgehog helpers are given a warm welcome by Nigel and Elaine, proprietors of the organisation, and Leslie, one of their essential volunteers. And we’re pitched straight into the action, cleaning out the den of 6 orphaned baby hedgehogs. It’s a smelly job, to be honest, but not that bad and we are given disposable gloves and tabards.

‘These came in just a couple of days ago’, Nigel tells me. ‘A litter of 6 is unusual. We’re not sure what happened to the mother, but she did well to keep these little ones alive’. If you like cute, you’re in trouble with baby hedgehogs. I did think about slipping one in my pocket but that would have been wrong, all wrong.


Here’s one of the babies being weighed. There are currently 18 hedgehogs, including the babies, at the sanctuary. Each is weighed every day: this is a key indicator to the health of the animal, and all the hoglets had put on a little weight, testimony to the diligent care of the team.


Here, three of the babies cautiously come out from underneath their heat mat, wrapped in newspaper, to slurp up a bowl of goats milk. Warmth is imperative to the survival of young hoglets, and cows milk makes hedgehogs ill… If you have to feed hedgehogs at any point, use chicken flavoured dog or cat food rather than the traditional bread and milk.


Next, we go outside to tend to the hedgehogs, many of them about to go into hibernation, who are recovering in the safety of the Hedgehog Hotels in Nigel and Elaine’s gorgeous garden. Each hog has its own custom-built dorm, with a sleeping area and a food area. And each animal is weighed, its room meticulously cleaned and fresh food – consisting of dog food, a sort of muesli, water and a bowl of high-protein mash – put out.


Nigel gives one of the hedgehogs -Joe, I think it is- a cuddle


Kenzo, a big beautiful chap who is a permanent resident, pops out to make sure room service has delivered his breakfast

Nigel tells me that the hedgehog population level, always a difficult thing to measure, is declining. He cites concrete, tidy, fenced- in gardens, pesticides, poor hedgerow management, and, of course, traffic accidents as significant factors. Looking into it later, I find that states some scary statistics: that the population of hedgehogs has declined by 25% in the last ten years, and that this is just the tail end of a dramatic loss: in the 1950s there were believed to be 50 million hedgehogs in the UK which had diminished to 1.5 million in 1995. It gets worse. An article in The. Guardian, dated January 2013, has declined by yet another 30% in the years from 2003 to 2012. There are now fewer than a million hedgehogs here, and their situation is perilous. The number of hedgehogs killed by cars, for example, is vast, running into tens of thousands.


Howey Hedgehog Rescue have seen more than one hundred hedgehogs come through their doors just this year. Many have been released back into the wild, to take their chances. A few didn’t make it. And there are a fortunate few who will become permanent residents here.

All in all, my Good Day Out was thought provoking, informative and immense fun. And it was good to know that me small cost of the experience will allow the amazingly dedicated team at Howey can carry on their work.


The helpers and team…Pen, Elaine, , Steve, Lesley and Nigel