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Hampstead Heath | Rewilding Walk

Trees/bushes identified

Blackthorn tree (Sloe berries) [Prunus spinosa]
Oct-Nov

⁃ Be careful not to get pricked by the long thorns when picking these little blue-black fruits. A gentle twist should ease them off their branches.

⁃ Most people love Sloes for their excellent combination with gin.

Slow Gin:

  1. After washing approx 500g of slow berries, pop them into a 1l airtight jar and add 250g of golden caster sugar and 1l of gin.
  2. Shake well once a week whilst generally storing in a dark place.
  3. Continue this for around three months whilst the alcohol extracts the flavour from the berries.
  4. Strain the mixture through a cloth, squeezing all the juice.
  5. Repeat this once more before enjoying this soul-warming tipple!

English Oak tree [Quercus robur]

⁃ Available all year round in parks, commons and heathlands.

⁃ Identifiable by its silvery-brown trunk and deep verticle ridges. The leaves have four to six loves per side, with rounded edges. The branches have little knobbly buds that form along the tips.

⁃ You’ll often spot them easily by the acorns from last season scattered underneath or when new ones start growing in autumn.

Lime tree [Tilia cordanta]

⁃ The trees grow up to 30m high, with heart-shaped leaves (with a pointy tip) and finely toothed edges that can be translucent when young.

⁃ Use the paler, younger leaves in a spring salad.

Hawthorn (Hawthorn berries) [Crataegus monogyna]
Sept-Nov

⁃ Found on pathways, heathland, comms and marshes in either the form of a shrub or a tree (which can grow up to 12m tall).

⁃ Watch out for the short spiky branches and the pip inside the berry (which shouldn’t be eaten).

⁃ There are some great recipes online for Hawthorn Berry Ketchup! Look around for a zingy sweet & sour condiment that is easy to make!

Silver Birch [Betula pendula]

⁃ Easily identifiable by its silver, horizontal bark with irregular dark lines and ‘eyes’.

⁃ You can peel off the already lifted bark and gently scrape it with a knife to create a brilliant tinder. Or, use larger pieces for shelter cover (or making shoes, if you feel creative).

Holly (Ilex aquifolium)

⁃ We recognise holly from festive seasons where it’s often intertwined into wreaths.

⁃ Mature trees can grow up to 15m and live for around 300 years!

⁃ Older trees that have been less predated on can sometimes have rounder, smoother leaves than the typically well-known spikey ones. The upper parts of the tree are also more likely to be smooth.

⁃ Holly will flower white, four-petaled flowers between early spring and the beginning of summer, depending on the climate.

⁃ Once they are pollinated by the insects, the flowers turn into red berries, which remain throughout the winter.

⁃ Holly wood is known for making good firewood as it burns with strong heat.

Plants identified

Greater Plantain [Plantago major]
Jan-Dec

⁃ Generally blooming between June and October, but it can also remain persistent through winter.

⁃ Pops up on lawns, roadside and fields and the flower spikes can reach up to 20cm.

⁃ Sometimes known as “rat’s tail” because of the scaly, long look of its flowers.

Pineapple Weed [Matricaria discoidea]
May-Oct

⁃ Little (up to 20cm) yellow upside-down pineapple-like plants with a gorgeous, fragrant aroma and taste.

⁃ Often confused with chamomile and mayweed (but don’t worry, both are edible). 

⁃ Some people are allergic, so try a small amount before any large quantities 

Pineapple Weed Granata:

A refreshing semi-frozen dessert made by boiling 300lm water and stirring in the pineapple weed (leaves and flowers). Once boiled, leave to cool for approx 1 hr. Add 100g caster sugar and bring to the boil again before reducing the heat to a simmer whilst continuing to stir for about 3 minutes. Allow it to cool before sieving the mixture into a freezable container where it will need to sit for about 2 hours. Give the mash a good stir around before re-freezing for another 30 mins. Repeat one or two more times before your desired texture is reached.

Pineapple Weed

Common/Stinging Nettle [Urtica dioica]

⁃ Stinging nettle can grow up to 850m wide and 150m high, generally on nutrient-rich, fairly damp soils.

⁃ Unique in that it can be recognised by touch alone, which is caused by the hairs which act like glass hypodermic needles injecting uric acid into the skin.

⁃ Nettles make for a lovely tea though, and if you’re careful how you pick them (wear gloves), crushing or heating them disarms the sting and makes them easily edible.

Nettle Pesto:

Blend 500g raw nettles with 250g nuts (pine or other), 250g grated parmesan, 8 garlic cloves, some salt and olive oil.

Fireweed (also known as Rose Bay Willow Herb) [Chamerion angustifolium]

Both the flowers and the leaves are edible and are known to have many health benefits

⁃ Grow up to about 1.2m tall

⁃ Often found on the roadside, in open woodland and by railways. They’re pretty well distributed and easy to recognise once you spend time with them.

⁃ Once the purple/pink flowers turn into the white fluff in Aug-Sept, you can collect the luff for great fire-starting tinder!

Fireweed Tea:

Use the flowers directly with hot water for a fragrant tea. Or, take some more time to bruise the leaves between your finger and ferment them in a jar before drying the leaves for a slightly different fireweed tea.

Bramble/Blackberry [Robus fruticosus]
July-Oct

⁃ The bush itself is called the Bramble, but the fruit we all know and love so well is the Blackberry.

⁃ Blackberries are generally at their sweetest from late July.

Blackberry Whisky:
⁃ Fill a jar with berries, add some sugar to taste, top the jar with a good whisky and leave for about a year in a dark place. After a year, remove the berries and rebottle. Then (I’m so sorry), wait another year for the flavours to bend.

Fungi identified

Artists Bracket/Southern Bracket [Ganoderma applanatum]

⁃ Growing between 10-60cm across, with brown, white, woody-looking features.

⁃ This bracket fungi is not edible.

⁃ Touching the white pores underneath changes the colour to brown, leaving a clear mark or line, which is why they are known as the Artist’s Fungus.

Birch Polypore (also known as Razorstrop Fungus) [Piptoporus betulinus]

⁃ Found on dead or dying birch trees all year round, this mushroom can grow 5-30cm wide, often in a shell-like shape.

⁃ The taste is bitter, but another use is to remove the pore-bearing flesh and use this on the skin, much like a plaster. Alternatively, you can use them to sharpen your blades!

Chicken of the Woods [Laetiporus sulphureus]

Look out for this delicacy mushroom growing in shelves on old trees (particularly Sweet Chestnut, Oak, and Willow). Smells and tastes delicious (with a texture and flavour like shredded chicken)

⁃ Some people have been known to suffer adverse effects from eating this mushroom

Preparation

⁃ Forage a few of the fleshy parts, clean if necessary. Fry in butter / deep fry in butter-milk & seasoning

Chicken of the woods

King Alfred’s Cake [Daldinia concentrica]

⁃ AKA coal fungus, carbon fungus, cramp balls. You’ll spot this dark, hard bracket fungi sticking off the side of a dead piece of wood, looking like coal. This fungi was used in the past to carry fires over distances.

⁃ Legend has it, in the 9th Century King Alfred fled attack from Vikings and hid in a peasant woman’s house. She asked him to watch after her cakes but he let them burn to crisp. He tried to hide the cakes and threw them all around the forest, but he was caught and taunted. Hence the name King Alfreds Cake.

Uses

Tinder (catching an ember)

Coal extender (keeping the ember/coal alive)

King Alfreds Cake

Follow-up links

Seven Practices Course | Continue your journey

Foragers Handbook | Used for plant identification

Edible Mushrooms | Used for mushroom identification

Breatheolution | We discussed Kev during our breathwork practice.

Flat foot squat | Tutorial to help you perform a flat foot squat

Natural Navigator | We discussed Tristan’s techniques for finding north

Blue-light blocking glasses | Swanwick 100% blue-light blocking glasses

Correct Toes | UK Supplier of the toe dividers that Goerge and Amber wear

Unguarded Warrior | The mens retreat George works on

Mindfulness

Remember, you always have your five senses to help you ground yourself and reconnect to the present moment when anxiety sneaks in.

Gently close the eyes or lower the gaze.

Take your time to find your breath, keeping one hand on the belly and one hand on the chest if it helps.

5: Think about five things you can see.

4: What four things can you physically feel?

3: Three things you can hear.

2: What two things can you smell?

1: And finally, one thing you can taste.

 

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