Yellow gorse flowers were a cheering splash of colour on a rare dry evening, given a warm tint by the setting sun as the moon rose up behind. Of course gorse is a common plant up on the heathland of the New Forest, but I had not expected to find it so close to the sodden marsh as it prefers well drained environments. It is a combustable plant and Furze (as locals know it) used to be collected for the domestic hearth. I shall be watching out for the many spiders and caterpillars that regard it as home and may pay my own homage by making wine from its flowers.
Following on from my previous posting, I can report that the search for orris root (an ingredient in the purification of Exbury Sea salt in the eighteenth century) has quickly proved fruitful. On a walk today with friends and with my neighbour’s dogs, I found the Iris Garden (in Exbury Gardens bordering my parish). However, I will remain on the look out for less cultivated evidence closer to home.
I realise I have encountered it already as a flavouring and aromatic in gin, and it is used mainly today in perfume. Its scent prevails over those of others in ‘Tumulte’ for example, a scent by Christian Lacroix or more obviously in ‘Infusion d’iris’ from Prada*. I may distill it as part of a unique essence of place for the Egg.
- Molly Exploring the Iris Garden
Moonlight through the tangled thorny forest of the blackthorn egg, cast ghostly reminders of wildwood onto the planed and tamed timbers of the Exbury Egg in the early hours this morning.
I placed an egg of woven blackthorn in the thicket from which its twigs and small branches originally came. It is held together with ties of twine and will soon be slowly absorbed into the dense new growth of Springtime. Its spiny exterior surface and hollowed core, offers natural protection to the small nesting birds which make their home here. I will document the changes as days pass into weeks, as part of a meditation on the nature of habitats and the important symbolism of the Egg.
The egg within the Egg
Photo: Nick Dawe
The tree is an appropriately curved frond from a Cedar of Labanon (appropriately biblical), found nearby within the confines of Exbury Gardens. It nestles in the arc of the inner wall is decorated with flotsam from the shore. On Twelfth Night, each item will be taken down, carefully recorded and stored for my growing Egg archive.
Leaves and grasses were firmer underfoot as I ventured out into the first frost of the year this morning. While the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’* is with us still, it heralds the Winter that is not many more weeks away.
Outer Bank at 7.30am looking toward the Egg. Mists rising
* ‘To Autumn’, John Keats, 1819
I visited the outer bank on Thursday and was impressed by the Tamarisk trees. Their tiny leaves are folded close to the stem as can be seen in my microscope photograph. I will look forward to enjoying a much wider perspective in springtime when their tiny pink flowers will be framed and enhanced by the colour and light of the dawn sky.
They were probably planted to enhance the stability of the Outer Bank when the enclosed waters inside its sluice gates (removed) were used for concentrating sea salt for collection along toothed channels that can still be observed. It’s possible these trees or their forebears have been here since the late eighteenth century. They love being close to the sea and enjoy these salty soils.
I began to make rose hip syrup on October 4th (see earlier blog post), but decided instead to make the pulped hips into an ink for drawing. So last Sunday I spent a whole day making syrup using hips from another bush growing from the disused WW2 bofors gun emplacement beside the Egg. I used a recipe issued by the Ministry of Food in 1944.
Work commenced gathering hips from 09.00 until 13.00. These were washed and from 13.30 to 15.00 all were topped and tailed. From 15.00 – 17.00 the jars were sterilised and the hips boiled and strained, before reducing six pints of fluid to to just under one pint. Eight hours of work, half a pint of paraffin in the stove and two pounds of hips produced just one and a half jars of syrup. It makes one think carefully about our relationship with the land, the flora it sustains and my own regular profligacy with the jam spoon.