Woden’s Summer Walk

Last time in my blog I took you all on the late Woden’s dog walk, which I would regularly take him on in the springtime. Now we can carry on our little favourite walk in the summertime and see what is occurring differently at this time of year and share some memories with you all along the way.

Sit Spot

Our Sit Spot

This is where Woden and I would rest up for a while, whilst I practised my sit spot to see what is happening around me, Woden would just sit and practise his, with ever viewing eyes and a never-ending hungry stomach. With my trusted Hawke Nature-Trek monocular I would spend an hour or so watching over the ever-expanding landscape that our small village of Tarrington was nestled in, amongst the vast expanse of the rolling hills, fields and woodlands of our beautiful landscape of Herefordshire. Buzzards and sometimes red kites would be circling overhead, riding magically in the sky whilst listening to their distinctive calls. I would watch the wildlife contently, whether if it was a rabbit, pheasant or just the old plain wood pigeon, everything was interesting to watch and learn about their individual behaviour, adding knowledge to tracking skills. Sometimes even human behaviour was fun to watch. I remember sat at our sit spot when I spotted two neighbours in a bit of turmoil. One neighbour was trying to prune a very large Cherry tree in their garden (very badly) which coincidently its lateral branches extended over their neighbours garden, said neighbours were frantically trying to watch what their neighbours were trying to achieve, as the dividing fence was just about six foot high, neither neighbour could see each other. I must admit I stayed longer than usual as I was in fits of giggles on what was unfolding in this scenario. It reminded me of something out of an old Carry-On film. The pruning neighbours gave up and retired into their house, while the frantic neighbours next door, I believe in a sigh of relief returned to theirs. As an arborist I had to go and look at the damage to the Cherry tree and yep! The cutting techniques used on the Cherry tree were not to the BS3998 pruning guidelines. With all sit spots whether involving animal or human, it is just the same, sit down, be patient, be still, observe and learn. Alas I have gabbled on too much here and so we must carry on with our walk, so off through the rape field and towards the village itself.

Silver weed

Over the field and not so far away

Through the ripening rape field and with it the odd wildflower plant growing alongside, I spotted the silver weed growing with abundance with broad-leaf plantain around it. The silver underside of the leaf is what gives rise to the plants name. They are a distinctive silver-green on the topside and coated of silvery grey fine hairs on the underside. It’s said the leaves can be placed in shoes to absorb excess sweat because the starch content helps absorbing moisture. All parts of silverweed are edible, though the flavour and texture of the leaves is not particularly attractive. They still can be tossed into salads or made into an herbal tea. It’s the roots that are of main interest due to its starch content. However, they have been long considered famine food because they are fiddly to collect, so small to use and hard to clean. They can be dried and ground into a powder to use in soups and stews. The Broadleaf plantain can be eaten has a salad leaf, though bitter, or as a potherb. Plantain is also a useful medical plant for insect stings and bites. 

Through field to style

Over the old wooden gnarled style, Woden would never learn that he was too big to crawl underneath, and I had to physically lift him over this style too continue on with our journey through the village. This was the sniff, wait and walk on moment, Woden would do the same as we headed towards the gateway that would lead us into the open field, nearing to our halfway point.

Over the style and onto the back road that leads us past the village hall and the old school, we head towards the rustic field gate that will let us venture through the meadow field and away from the tarmac road, onto the well-trodden path through the grass. Though the ditch line on the road does have an abundance of rosebay willow herb, young shoots can be treated like asparagus. As they mature the seed heads are useful for fire lighting.

Field meadow

Off we go through the old wooden gate with the bailing twine gate catch. As I pass through it reminds me of two things from my past, the first is from one of the Ol’ boys from Herefordshire who once told me “Yer need to carry a knife, a piece of string and a half a bob, which is probably five pence today son,  so that you can cut, tie and buy!” The second was the realisation why my grandad always had bailey twine as a belt on his work trousers on his farm. Through the meadow field I would always practice my tracking and plant identification but there was always something I would always introduce to Woden. I must admit it was to my amusement and not Woden’s, as one of the orchards that backed unto this field held Alpacas. Woden has never encountered one of these fine creatures from South America and I think the Alpacas have never come across a Woden. He would just stare through the fence, head tilting this way and that trying to work out what these animals were.  The alpacas would just stand there observing us and deciding if we’re a threat or not. Then off we went for refreshments via the last crop field to cross. During winter we could see the Rabbits territorial markings and warren holes from the adjacent hedgerow. The summer vegetation growth has overgrown these, so we go back to plant identification. We came across a desired path, and I know why it is so desired as it leads to the local pub. And! Yes, I would use this desired path to stop at our local. It was usually not my idea to stop and have a pint, but Woden would be stroppy on our way home if we didn’t. So off we went inside for a pint and have a chat to landlord Trev.

Desired Path
The last field

Unto the manor born

After our well-deserved refreshment Woden and I would head out from the Tarrington Arms and head towards the footpath that runs alongside the Tarrington Manor. So, through the village past the stream that throws up lady smock and the occasional Wild garlic, both good plants to identify and both sort after wild plants to eat. Heading upwards we passed Honey suckle infested hedges and with the soap wort on the verges, we passed two of my favourite trees in the village, first we come across the Larch, (I will skip the Monty Python joke here) with its distinctive bent tip to its crown.

The larch

The Larch is one of the conifers that will shed its needles in the winter season. As a Highway tree safety inspector, I will normally have a worried resident putting in a defect, claiming that a conifer tree is dead only for me to turn up on site and go yep that’s a Larch. Then we go on and look upon the great common oak that in my eyes is a magnificent species to behold. The oak that made our navy once the rulers of the seas, but more fitting for such a great tree is it is one of the best trees for hosting wildlife, and fungi. Now onto the footpath that leads us past the Apple orchards of the manor that has a line of Lime trees leading you towards the gate way to the manor.

My favourite tree

At the entrance of the footpath, we have a Hazel tree, one of the many bushcrafter’s tree of multiple uses, their nuts are forming ready for the autumn harvest but sadly we will probably not have the chance to collect these in autumn as the Grey Squirrel will collect these when unripe and eat them or stash them somewhere, robbing us and the our native Red Squirrels of a seasonal delicious nut. As we passed the row of lime trees, we spot the distinctive tree bark scars of woodpeckers tapping through the Lime tree bark to feed on the sap from the tree.

Lime trees leading you towards the gate way to the manor

As we passed the infamous and greatly detested Leylandii hedge that is lined behind the towering and trembling White Poplar trees, we head towards the kissing gate where my wife Em is quite glad to point out the toll to be paid to her for me to pass through this gate.


To The Hedgerows and Beyond

Now past the Kissing gate with my toll paid to Em, we slowly head up the hill heading towards home, I must admit this was the slowest part of our journey as the hedgerow is probably one of the best places to study wild plant identification, something I will touch upon in a blog in the near future, so I will write next time on the great importance of our hedgerows. We find the useful burdock plant with its edible but hard to extract root and its large leaves that can be used for wrapping up meat and fish for cooking on embers. We then stumble upon the plant we know as meadow sweet; I first learnt the name of this glorious and useful plant as I lived at property called Meadow Sweet. Sweetly scented meadowsweet was famous as a strewing herb and as a flavouring for mead. It also contains Salicylic acid which aspirin is derived from and can be used the same way. I notice the very poisonous leaves that is growing up one of the hedgerow Hawthorn trees, this is Black bryony, though easy enough to be identified this time of year with its snake like tongue leaf and that it is a climbing plant like ivy, but come autumn these berries will be growing alongside the Hawthorn berries and to the untrained eye these red berries can easily be mistaken.

Be wary of poisonous berries in the hedgerow

The last Woden waltz

As we finally head up the hill towards home we tread upon the rough track through the last of the conifer block and then up a well-trodden fallow deer track, trough the spruce trees and we spot quite a lot of feeding signs of the grey squirrel feasting on the spruce cones. Sometimes in this block you can find the feeding signs of birds of prey, but sadly no such signs are visible on this walk or the last, but Em proudly finds a skull to present to me for my inspection.

Conifer block

Past the windblown spruce tree that has snapped into two, gifting the branches and sap ready for easy fire lighting. Adjacent a large clematis grows thickly through the canopy of the surrounding trees. I find all my fire starting needs just next to our back door. Finally, Em and I pause by the yew tree, where we buried Woden together and with hand in hand we shed some tears for the loss of a beautiful and loyal member of our family. Although this was a tale of walking a dog, it was also a way of going out for a walk to practice bushcraft skills. So next time you go out for a walk in either a city or the countryside you can always brush up your skills on the way.

Woden Happy
Woden as a pup

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