Outdoor Clues and Signs

Last spring (2014) I had the pleasure of taking Tristan Gooley on a walk around Cwm Idwal National Nature Reserve in Snowdonia National Park. The walk features as a chapter in his latest book on Natural Navigation called ‘The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues and Signs’. The walk involved looking at wild flowers and geology and how they can be used to aid navigation and to help you know what is going on in the natural world. Plants respond to the climate and weather patterns and can indicate water saturation in the soil. They also help understand the geology of the area and what type of habitat you are in.

Walking with Tristan Gooley

Walking with Tristan Gooley

Tristan Gooley in Cwm Idwal

Tristan Gooley in Cwm Idwal

The Walker's Guide to Outdoor Signs and Clues

The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Signs and Clues

Hawthorn brandy

Hawthorn brandy

Hawthorn brandy will be ready for Xmas

Brandy seems to have been the preferred medium for tincturing hawthorn. The method of production is similar to any other tinctures. If you would like to produce a medicinal quality tincture go to Michael Moore’s website where there is a list of alcohol quantities and strengths for each kind of herb.

How to make Hawthorn brandy

375ml brandy

225g haws

125g sugar

  • Clean the haws and dry them
  • Add haws and sugar to a sterilised jar
  • Pour in the brandy and shake vigorously
  • Keep warm and shake daily for 1 week
  • Shake weekly for 2 months
  • Decant liquid into sterilised bottles and enjoy

Warning

A few words of warning and rules:

  • Some plants and fungi are poisonous, so if you are not 100% certain that your identification is correct – DO NOT EAT IT.
  • Avoid foraging where agricultural sprays or vehicle pollution may have contaminated produce.
  • Always stay on Rights of Way unless you have the permission from the landowner to leave them.
  • Picking nuts, berries, leaves etc. is permitted on Rights of Way, but the uprooting of any wild plants is illegal without the landowner’s permission.

Hawthorn ketchup

Hawthorn ketchup

Hawthorn ketchup recipe

Hawthorn Berry Benefits

Used to promote the health of the circulatory system, treat angina, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and cardiac arrhythmia and has been found to strengthen the heart. Hawthorn is widely regarded in Europe as a safe and effective treatment for the early stages of heart disease and has been used for a number of ailments including angina, myocarditis, arteriosclerosis, nervous conditions like insomnia, and diarrhea. It has also been indicated for strengthening blood vessels, vascular insufficiency and blood clots, restoring the heart muscle wall, lowering cholesterol and to aid digestion.

How to make Hawthorn ketchup

1Kg Haws
600ml Vinegar
600ml Water
340g Brown sugar
Salt & pepper
Cloves & Star anise

  • Prepare & clean the haws
  • Boil until soft in water and vinegar (about 30 mins)
  • Sieve (quite hard work!)
  • Re-boil for 10 mins with spice & seasoning
  • Pour into sterilised containers!

Warning

A few words of warning and rules:

  • Some plants and fungi are poisonous, so if you are not 100% certain that your identification is correct – DO NOT EAT IT.
  • Avoid foraging where agricultural sprays or vehicle pollution may have contaminated produce.
  • Always stay on Rights of Way unless you have the permission from the landowner to leave them.
  • Picking nuts, berries, leaves etc. is permitted on Rights of Way, but the uprooting of any wild plants is illegal without the landowner’s permission.

Hawthorn fruit leather

image

Hawthorn fruit leather

Hawthorn is a traditional and ancient British tree. It’s flowers bloom in May and are wrapped in folk lore with fairies and even sexual fertility! Hawthorn has the ability to reduce cholesterol, hypertension and it contains compounds which increase blood flow and alleviate angina. It is a great heart tonic.

How to make Hawthorn fruit leather

This recipe is fairly straight forward to make.

  • Place large quantity of ripe hawthorn berries (haws) in a saucepan
  • Cover in water or apple juice but don’t add too much as you will need to dehydrate the puree
  • Simmer for about 15 minutes & allow to cool
    Mash the pulp briefly then rub through a sieve
    Pour the strained pulp onto baking paper on a baking tray less than 1cm thick
  • Place in the oven for approximately 2-4 hours. Leave to dry in the oven at its lowest setting
    Leave until the pulp is dry and leathery and can be peeled off the trays
  • Cut or tear into pieces &  store in an air tight jar
  • If dried and stored properly they will easily last for a year
image-1

Hawthorn fruit leather before drying

Warning

A few words of warning and rules:

  • Some plants and fungi are poisonous, so if you are not 100% certain that your identification is correct – DO NOT EAT IT.
  • Avoid foraging where agricultural sprays or vehicle pollution may have contaminated produce.
  • Always stay on Rights of Way unless you have the permission from the landowner to leave them.
  • Picking nuts, berries, leaves etc. is permitted on Rights of Way, but the uprooting of any wild plants is illegal without the landowner’s permission.

Beech leaf noyau

beech leaf noyau

Beech leaf noyau

An exotic tasting aperitif for Christmas time. Drink it neat or on ice!

Beech leaves as well as beech nuts are edible and make a great addition to salads. Young, tender leaves are tastier so collect when young if possible.

Beech leaves were once used to treat rheumatism! Now it’s time to make your exotic aperitif!

How to make your Beech leaf noyau

Collect 400g beech leaves, place in a kilner jar and add a bottle, 700ml, gin

Leave to infuse for 3 weeks then strain the gin from the leaves.

Boil 225g sugar in 300ml water and leave to cool.

beech leaf noyau

Bottled beech leaf noyau

Mix the gin, sugary water with 200ml brandy, bottle and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Warning

A few words of warning and rules:

  • Some plants and fungi are poisonous, so if you are not 100% certain that your identification is correct – DO NOT EAT IT.
  • Avoid foraging where agricultural sprays or vehicle pollution may have contaminated produce.
  • Always stay on Rights of Way unless you have the permission from the landowner to leave them.
  • Picking nuts, berries, leaves etc. is permitted on Rights of Way, but the uprooting of any wild plants is illegal without the landowner’s permission.

Nettle iron tonic

nettle iron tonic

nettle iron tonic

This nettle iron tonic is a fantastic remedy if you suffer from low iron levels. Nettle is incredibly rich in Iron and makes an excellent blood tonic. It is also great for asthma, excema, hayfever and arthritis.

How to make the nettle iron tonic

Simply collect some nettle heads, chop up some un-sulphured apricots, add the zest of an orange (for Vit C) and add a bottle of 12-14% red wine! Shake daily for 2 weeks then take 1-2 dessert spoons once daily!
See how you get on with this fantastic remedy

Norway Spruce hot toddy

A look at the branches

A look at the branches

Did you know that in 1841 Prince Albert (Queen Victoria’s husband) decorated this tree with lights at Christmas introducing an old German custom.
It is also used in the construction of violins, mandolins and guitars.
The world’s oldest living individual clonal tree, Old Tjikko, is a Norway Spruce aged at 9550 years old.

What to know before you pick it and make your hot toddy!
Identification:

White lines on the underside of needle

White lines on the underside of needle

  • The needles are stiff & pointed.
  • They have a white line on each ‘side’.
  • The needles are squarish in shape.
  • If crushed they give of a rich, sweet smell

How to make a Norway Spruce hot toddy

It’s quick and easy to make and adds a great twist to a traditional hot toddy!

Ingredients:

    •  1l water
    • 1 twig Norway spruce
A winter warming drink using Norway Spruce in a hot toddy

A winter warming drink Norway Spruce hot toddy

  • Star anise
  • Black pepper
  • Juniper berries
  • Cloves
  • Honey
  • Lime
  • Brandy

What to do:

    • Throw all the ingredients into a pan
    • Bring to the boil for 15 minutes for the flavours to infuse
Close up of twig with needles

Close up of Norway Spruce twig with needles

  • Add the brandy at the end
  • Drink and enjoy

 

 

 

 

 

Warning

A few words of warning and rules:

  • Some plants and fungi are poisonous, so if you are not 100% certain that your identification is correct – DO NOT EAT IT.
  • Avoid foraging where agricultural sprays or vehicle pollution may have contaminated produce.
  • Always stay on Rights of Way unless you have the permission from the landowner to leave them.
  • Picking nuts, berries, leaves etc. is permitted on Rights of Way, but the uprooting of any wild plants is illegal without the landowner’s permission.

What is a lichen?

what is a lichen?

lichen covered tree

What is a lichen?

Ever wondered what is a lichen? They often appear as light green covering on trees so clear during winter months when the leaves have fallen. These are lichens and are made of 2 parts, an alga and fungi. Other living organisms cover trees too including ferns, mosses, fungi and plants. These are all collectively known as epiphytes.

These mysterious organisms are fascinating and come in a range of colours and sizes.

what is a lichen?

flavoparmelia type lichen

A lichen consists of 2 or more partners living together with both benefiting from the association. One partner is a fungus the other either an alga or a cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green alga although it is more closely related to bacteria than algae).

The alga produces nutrients from the suns energy by Photosynthesis. The fungus creates a body (thallus) in which they both live and produces chemicals that may act as sunscreen to protect the alga.

what is a lichen?

Cladonia spp. Fairy cup lichen

Lichens are an ancient type of organism dating back over 400 million years. They are very successful and cover over 8% of the world surface and over 30,000 species have been identified. They grow on the highest mountains to tidal coasts and from polar regions to the tropics.

Some are tiny and encrust rocks, trees or soil. There are some which resemble beards and are bushy, sometimes growing up to 3m, whilst others are lobed and leaf-like.

what is a lichen?

Devil’s matchstick lichen – Cladonia spp

Colours range from dull grey-browns to brilliant yellows and bright orange reds.

Lichens tell us about the health of the air we breathe. They are sensitive to pollutants from agriculture, power stations and car fumes. Burning coal for power produces acidic rainfall killing lichens and agricultural nitrogen compounds significantly change the lichens present as some are very sensitive whilst others thrive in the nitrogen rich air.

Some lichens are edible and used to flavour pizza in Morocco!

what is a lichen?

Usnea spp. lichen

Others are used by drug companies to make antibiotics or sunscreen cream.

Litmus paper, used to tell if a solution is acidic or basic, uses a water-soluble mixture of different dyes extracted from lichens.
They have also been used as indicators of ancient woodlands to show that they have never been clear-felled.

What is an invasive species?

These can be defined as animals and plants that have been introduced to a place where they do not naturally occur are known as non-native species. Many of these live happily in the UK without causing a problem but a few become what’s called invasive.

Invasive species upset the balance of the ecosystem as they may be bigger, faster growing or more aggressive than the native species. They adapt well and enjoy a period of population expansion as they may have fewer natural predators to control numbers. The native species are often unable to compete and fairly quickly the invasive species take over.

Can you name the three species below?

A great link to find out more about these species is here

New Zealand WillowherbHimalayan balsamJapanese knotweed

What is a National Park?

Henri Pittier National Park Venezuela

High Atlas National Park Morocco

Mount Kinabalu National Park Borneo Malaysia

Cairngorm National Park Scotland

Torres del Paine National Park Chile

Mount Cook National Park New Zealand

Lake Hovsgol National Park Mongolia

Lake District National Park England

Teide National Park Tenerife Spain

Snowdonia National Park Wales

This may appear as a simple question but as their designation lies in the hands of the individual nation they can vary significantly between countries. A National Park is a park used for conservation purposes. They are often a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or owns. A common theme runs through all National Parks and that is for the conservation of nature and as a symbol of national pride.

National Parks exist in many countries around the world and in 2006 there were 6,555 National Parks worldwide in almost 100 countries. The first established National Park is Yellowstone National Park in the USA. It was designated in 1872 whilst the largest in Northeast Greenland National Park designated in 1974. The newest are Band-e Amir in Afghanistan designated in 2009 & the South Downs National Park, England designated in 2010.

International Union for Conservation of Nature

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is an international organisation concerned with finding solutions to pressing environment and development challenges. Its World Commission on Protected Areas has defined a “National Park” as its Category II type of Protected Areas.

The IUCN Protected Areas include national parks, wilderness areas, community conserved areas & nature reserves and also contribute to people’s livelihoods, particularly at the local level.

They are a mainstay of biodiversity conservation and act at the core of efforts towards conserving nature and the ecosystem services provided to us, e.g. food, clean water supply, medicines and protection from the impacts of natural disasters.

Defining Protected Areas

The IUCN protected Areas categories are categories used to classify Protected Areas

  • Category Ia   Strict Nature Reserve
  • Category Ib   Wilderness Area
  • Category 2    National Park
  • Category 3    Natural Monument or Feature
  • Category 4    Habitat/Species Management Area
  • Category 5    Protected Landscape/Seascape
  • Category 6    Protected Area with sustainable use of natural resources

Interestingly National Parks in the UK and many other countries do not fulfil these criteria as National Parks! IN England and Wales national Parks are designated as Protected Landscape

In 1969 the IUCN declared a National Park under its Protected Area classification as a relatively large area the following defining characteristics:

  • One or several ecosystems not materially altered by human exploitation and occupation, where plant and animal species, geomorphological sites and habitats are of special scientific, educational, and recreational interest or which contain a natural landscape of great beauty
  • Highest competent authority of the country has taken steps to prevent or eliminate exploitation or occupation as soon as possible in the whole area and to effectively enforce the respect of ecological, geomorphological, or aesthetic features which have led to its establishment
  • Visitors are allowed to enter, under special conditions, for inspirational, educational, cultural, and recreational purposes

In 1971 these criteria were further expanded upon leading to more clear and defined benchmarks to evaluate a national park. These include:

  • Minimum size of 1,000 hectares within zones in which protection of nature takes precedence
  • Statutory legal protection
  • Budget and staff sufficient to provide sufficient effective protection
  • Prohibition of exploitation of natural resources (including the development of dams) qualified by such activities as sport, fishing, the need for management, facilities, etc.

 Popular National Parks around the world

  1. Kruger National Park, South Africa
  2. Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary, Peru
  3. Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal
  4. Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
  5. Galapagos National Park, Ecuador
  6. Tikal National Park, Guatemala
  7. Yellow Dragon Scenic Area, China
  8. Iguazu National Park, Argentina
  9. Kakadu National Park, Australia
  10. Torres del Paine National Park