8th August 2023
Lughansa…the summer harvesttime at Bramblewood
“Live each season as it passes:
Breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit,
And resign yourself to the influence of the earth“
Henry David Thoreau, from ‘Walden’, or life in the woods
It’s just one week since Lughansa (August 1st), the Celtic summer celebration of harvest-time or in the Christian calendar – Lammas, the time to break bread and celebrate the start of the grain harvest. This is where the full moon on August 1st gets its name …Grain Moon. We are half way between summer solstice and autumn equinox, the wheel of the year turns again and the damsons on the way in to Bramblewood are almost fully grown -purple and hard, the buddleia is showing its flowers to the peacock butterfly and the grasses are bowing their seedheads, a sign that they are ripe and ready to harvest. The parts of the herbs for gathering for tea are turning yellow so no time to spare in a last minute rush to gather those still in full green and already nettle seed has been gathered for flavouring and the lime tree flowers for an exquisite tea. This is the time of saint Lugus who was revered for ‘crafting’; a time of arts and craft with nature’s bounty.
One and half months ago we had our midsummer celebration at and for Bramblewood. I think fondly of that summer evening with children and adults playing and dancing in Bramblewood, eating and drinking together to mark the occasion and to give something back to this vibrant mid-city human and more than human community – in the form of an oak tree standard – we planted with pledges to accompany him/her/them 😊. I felt we all truly drank in the midsummer that night.
Trepidation sets in on the approach to Bramblewood in the second week of August, wondering if the Bramblewood Forest Garden is producing to its full potential after its first proper year of planting and establishing deep beds? We have spent many a happy Monday earlier this year preparing, chopping, cutting, sewing and planting in anticipation of the summer harvest. Time spent in the Forest Garden, seeing some folk plant their first trees ever and chatting through how deep the deep beds should be, keeping the vine at bay etc etc, has been truly a joyous time with lots of laughter and at times hard work. But mostly relaxing times with many of the adult humans who come along on Mondays to sample Bramblewoods calming delights….not to mention the many and varied lunches we all bring along (see the first blog of 2023!).
Upon reaching the Bramblewood entrance they are waiting, the emblems of Bramblewood…YES GREAT BIG JUICY BLACKBERRIES and a wall of green – will we even be able to get into the garden?? Muscles ease into the community, halted by the buzzard, mewing its celebratory summer song from the highest tree on Landsdowne crescent, the call of a blackbird and scratchy slightly mournful singing of a squirrel. What the h*** if the garden is overgrown! We’re home and can at least get an abundant harvest of blackberry and maybe even cherry plum. Just a week ago we had our family Lughansa celebration, plus a cheers to the England cricket team – drawing the ashes test tour this year! Blackberry and pear tart/crumble in honour of the first fruits and harvest of the summer was shared. Following of the days, sun and the worldly cycles in our latitudes feels so familiar – knowing that our ancestors have been doing this since at least we started farming and even before that in possibly Neolithic times.
And so the walk into the dark yet dappled shade of the hazel grove at the heart of Bramblewood, sees us take a breath and walk across the clearing checking in with the newly planted oak…yup it seems to like it here, stretching young limbs and gently waving its green leafy hands at the emblems of luck hanging from said limbs, caringly and intentionally placed by the young humans that frequent this place most days during the school term. It really does feel that the trees at this time of year are guarding all the other life in this little Worcester City haven – with their green crowns. Around the corner we are greeted with a slightly dismaying site and stomachs clench…sure enough the garden is impenetrable…. what will the deep beds reveal? There is a slashing, cutting and pulling mostly, yes you guessed,….bramble, and to emerge through the willow arch entrance. Phew everything is still here…and more! The benefits of a Forest Garden and harvest time truly does live up to its name.
A Forest Garden is a permaculture practise whereby the garden design takes on the natural design of the natural world – in this case the layering of a Forest with its four layers at this latitude – from the top to the bottom….Canopy, Shrub, Herb and Ground layers – not forgetting probably one of the most important elements – the SOIL! There is also a horizontal dimension with the varying levels of light and ‘edge’ going from full shade to full sunlight. It is this diversity that can bring about a diversity of food. And yes we are starting to see this in our first full year of Forest Gardening at Bramblewood. There is a delight in the newly greening hazlenuts, plums, Worcester Pomagne Apple of the shrub layer giving shade to the ground layer of rhubarb, strawberry, broadleaved plantain, wild leek and domestic leek, toadflax and burgeoning chard! Herbs are thriving – mint, selfheal, lemon balm (need to watch this one!) and there are raspberries galore! Not a bad haul for a first year. After a morning of clearing of paths and bits of weeding in the beds we step back with a harvest of blackberry from the garden edge, cherry plums from the shrub layer, chard. A huge satisfied sigh is heard…the clenched stomach feeling has been replaced with a thoroughly contented stomach…..looking forward to even more fruits of the harvest in the remaining weeks of summer. The wren sings its tunes of thankfulness.
If any readers wish to join us in volunteering to sample the delights of this urban woodland and its forest garden please do get in touch through the contact form on our website.
And do live each season as it passes – NOW IS THE TIME to harvest from the hedgerows and wild places – taking note of course of what is edible and paying due gratitude to what the land provides.
August is bookended by full moons this year and on August 30th look out for the second full moon – (oft called a blue moon) and this one is the singing moon – so why not go out on that night and sing a song to our nearest orbiting sister!
2nd May 2023
Bramblewood and Beltane
It’s May 2nd and I’m still basking in Beltane. Bramblewood heralded this ancient custom by blossoming some of the first ‘late’ May flowers…yes the hawthorn flower, which was a few weeks overdue its first showing. And my what a showing, possibly one of the first times I have seen the blackthorn and hawthorn, our two native thorn trees, flowering together!
It is the hawthorn flower that gave May 1st its prominence in our calendar as the first day of summer…MAYDAY! This day is otherwise known as Beltane…the Celtic celebration midway between spring equinox and midsummer day. Beltane is the Gaelic word for fire and this is the fire ceremony marking the warming days at the start of summer. When I was a child we’d dance around the maypole and jump the fire on Beltane to honour the flourishing and flower frothing of this time of year. There’d be the Green Man (although I never reached that accolade as a youngster) heading in the summer and finally defeating the Snow Queen with the aid of the May queen.
There is always lots of play and running in and out of the trees.
So here’s an invite to play whether you’re young or old, in amongst the plantpeople and there’s still time sow plant seeds…wildflowers as well as the annual ubiquitous bedding plants. Sunflowers are always a favourite which then follow the sun with their radiance towards midsummer day.
If you missed Beltane this year maybe look out for any community celebrations next year… Bramblewood just may be holding something to mark one of the other Celtic celebrations later this year…. keep an eye on our website and social media.
25th April 2023
Bees and Butterflies
Witnessing life unfurling at Bramblewood this spring, greening the ground and taking to the wing in the sun and alighting on the first aerial flowers, lifts the heart and reveals the many relationships we have with- and in- the natural world.
In particular, the large bee flies with its long straight snout of a proboscis, that prods and fertilises the abounding blackthorn and cherry plum flowers. It is incredible. And then I dive into some anxiety and grief about the decline of bees – insect populations across Europe have dive-bombed by up to 80% in the last 30 years. And I pendulate between the anxieties of the modern world and the incredibleness of this patch of land in the middle of Worcester city and its entangled web.
The relatedness constantly enchants me even now after 60 years of bee and butterfly attunement. The role of the bee fly and its behaviour is truly indeed a marvel: The bumblebee and solitary bees burrow and lays eggs deep in their burrows; along comes bee fly to lay its eggs and covers them in sand grains to deceive the other bees and then the beefly larvae goes deeper into the burrow and predates a other bee larvae. Thus the populations have kept in step for thousands of years and indeed, these complex interactions were in balance for many years.
But then along come the dastardly nicotoids and the bumblebee and solitary bee populations have been shown to decline with the increasing use of such pesticides ,which could in turn affect these common and beautifully balanced bee flies…and the anxiety bubbles. But calls to action and participation are known to reduce our anxiety...
We can all do something, although it’s sometimes overwhelming. The current petition, for example, to get the government to re-examine DEFRA’s latest declaration that it is ok to use neonicitinoid pesticides on sugar crops, is a very tangible way of advocating for bees and all insects.
ALL are welcome to become part of the volunteer community, tending this gem of a piece of city heartland community. And one gets to witness the dance of the key pollinators of the cherry plum, whose flowers brighten Bramblewood at this time, one of many uplifting and nourishing abundances present. To witness these oh so delicate aviators now is so uplifting for us human beings. So why not come and volunteer on every other Monday to help the ecology of this heart of the city site and feel the benefits? Or, if you are unable to get here, consider signing the government petition to get DEFRA to reconsider granting the use of these nicotonoids, see https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/631948
|Petition: Overturn the decision to allow use of neonicotinoid pesticides on sugar crops
The decision needs to be reversed. The health of our environment must be put first.
11th April 2023
Volunteering at Bramblewood: Spring 2023 Bulletin
The short story …
Bramblewood Mondays restarted on 16th January 2023 and run fortnightly(ish).
See below for a list of spring dates and message or Whatsapp 07436 690361 before each session if you are coming, so we know how many cups and spoons to bring (tho there are always a few spares!)
The longer story for anyone new, old or in between who wants it…
As well as being a huge support in the upkeep and tending of Bramblewood, the wonderful people who have found their way to Bramblewood’s canopy, either regularly or as and when they can, have become the bedrock of a warm community centred around this little patch of canal side Worcester wildness. Thank you so much for showing up, and for your patience during our pause.
We have needed to take a break in holding sessions over the autumn, and we are excited to get back and spend the remainder of the winter in Bramblewood and to watch the emergence of a new spring (spotting the first teeny bright cerise hazel flowers in February, for me is a most exciting sign of renewal.)
What we get up to:
On a Monday at Bramblewood there are plenty of great things to do, as well as space to just get stuck in and quietly tend or be with the land or take a break from the hubbub of city life in a canopy gazing hammock. We have some bigger projects; the forest garden beds are blanketed and looking forward to receiving flora; there’s a slow growing tool shelter to roof; and other important things like fire and soup tending, dead hedging, gate making, path maintenance, wood collection and storage for forest school camp fires in the week.
There is often sharing skills, stories and songs round the fire, especially on one of those days when that is all anybody wants to do.
A warm welcome is there for those tentative or experienced at sharing, with no pressure to do anything; many attend to find moments where we can get lost in the wildness of the site. Each person is important, no need to be knowledgeable or skilled in nature based ‘activity’, just the willingness to connect with the delights of both (or either!) the human and non human elements of Bramblewood. Any training needed using tools etc. is shared by the members of the community.
Food and refreshments:
We tend to also share food together at lunch time. This custom has arisen organically, and people tend to bring a small offering of something vegan / vegetarian along and it gets put into the collective feast, often warmed on the fire. You are, of course, also most welcome to bring your own if you need/prefer to. Teas and coffees are available, as well as foraged seasonal bounties as they arise.
Bramblewood has a palatial, private composting loo “The Treebog” and handwashing facilities.
The ashy gate to Bramblewood will be open from 10am and we aim to have the kettle boiling on the fire by 10.30am for a starting natter and plan. The aim is for people to self-direct their time (something that can sometimes take some getting used to) with options of different maintenance/gardening jobs available as well as seats, hammocks and the blessings of the more-than-human to watch, be with or survey. Lunch time is a moveable feast depending on people’s needs that day and we tend to wrap up when the majority are needing to depart – often later in the summer.
Bramblewood Spring Mondays (not quite fortnightly)
January: 16th and 30th
February: 13th and 27th
March: 6th and 27th
April: 3rd and 24th
May: 15th and 22nd
June: 5th and …. TBC!
Do come along to get a feel for what’s happening. You will be made most welcome by the people and the woodland beings combined.
Helen, Jon and Myrtle
on behalf of the Bramblewood community