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Here you can find a collection of our thoughts, reports and ramblings together with some fun things we find along the way. We try to update the blog at least once a week and more often during busy periods so make sure you check back regularly..

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Aug 14 2017 09:06AM

As I find myself saying every year, August is the month when we first have to start thinking seriously about bottling some of the summer's bounty for the colder months ahead. Many of my recent weekends have been spent making chutneys and jams with surplus from the vegetable patch and orchard, but this last Sunday, with the hedgerows brimming with blackberries my thoughts turned to booze.

My favourite hedgerow tipple is undoubtedly damson gin. No doubt that's in part, due to my childhood memories of picking damsons on the family farm. We had twenty or so wild trees and the annual harvest was something of a tradition. (Looking back now I see I was shamelessly conned into it by my parents who didn't actually let me taste any of the end product until I was well into my teens. How innocent I was.)

But there are still a couple of weeks to go until this year's damson harvest and finding a half bottle of whisky at the back of the spirits cabinet led me to this recipe.

Much like sloe and damson gin, blackberry whisky is a long term investment. Although technically drinkable by Christmas, it will definitely still be pretty punchy, with harsh, peaty notes of the whisky. Leave it for a year and it will mellow to a smooth, port-like drink that is definitely more than the sum of its parts. Even if you don't like whisky, there's a fighting chance you'll love this.

I was quite happy with half a bottle but if you have the volume of fruit, then just double up the recipe for a bigger batch.

Blackberry Whisky Recipe

400ml whisky (the cheap stuff be fine. In fact, it's a great way to transform it into something drinkable.)

300g blackberries (picked on the day)

200g caster sugar

Simply place the blackberries in a half litre jar or the empty whisky bottle if it was a 750ml one. Pour over the sugar and add the spirit. gently turn to start the sugar dissolving then turn again every couple of days until entirely dissolved. After three or four months strain the fruit out through a fine muslin (they can develop a woody flavor if left too long). Pass the spirit through the muslin for a second time, to ensure it is crystal clear. Then leave to mellow for at least a year, ideally two. Enjoy neat or with chilled apple juice for a glassful of early autumn.

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Oct 10 2016 08:47AM

Ancient hedgerows are a haven for Britain's wildlife. These complex ecosystems act as an important refuge for birds, small mammals and insects. For the forager, they're brimming with fruits and nuts in early autumn.

Hedgerows traditionally marked the boundaries between estates and parishes. Some are the remnants of ancient woodlands but most were planted by landowners keen to protect their territory and to prevent livestock escaping. In particular, the Inclosure Acts of the 18th and 19th Centuries led to hedges been planted all over the country. You might think they’re a common sight in the countryside but after the Second World War thousands of miles - up to one third - of Britain's hedgerows were lost as a result of modern agricultural methods. The industrialisation of food and mechanised farming meant a demand for bigger fields in which large machinery could easily operate. These days we have a deeper understanding of the hedgerow's importance as a habitat and they are protected by law.

Hedgerows are home to hundreds of different plant and animal species. They also provide safe corridors for wildlife to move between larger areas of woodland. On an autumnal ramble, why not play a game of I Spy, spotting the different plants and creatures hanging out in the hedgerow?

For accurate identification arm yourself with a guide and look out for:

• Trees like oak, ash, elder and crab apple.

• Thorny shrubs like hawthorn, blackthorn and wild roses.

• Small mammals like voles, weasels, squirrels, hedgehogs and bats.

• Insects like stag beetles, bees and butterflies.

• Birds like blue tits, chaffinches, and blackbirds as well as pheasants and partridge during the game season.

How old is your local hedgerow?

While you're enjoying your ramble, try working out the age of your local hedgerow. Hooper's Hedgerow Hypothesis works on the rule of thumb that one new large species will establish itself in a hedge every century. So, pace out a 30 metre stretch of hedge, count the number of different woody species you find and multiply that number by 100 - you'll have the approximate age, in years, of your hedge. The oldest man-made hedgerows in the UK are thought to have been planted nearly a thousand years ago.

Did you know...? The word hedge actually comes from ‘haeg’, the Anglo-Saxon name for the hawthorn. One of the reasons the hawthorn was so commonly planted is that its wood burns slowly and produces lots of heat; it was the perfect fuel for stoves and fires.

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