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Nettle and Wild Garlic Soup

by Liz ~ 16 March, 2021 ~ comments welcome

Many of us taking our daily walks are noticing the very strong signs of Spring with new growth everywhere.  Two classic woodland and hedgerow ingredients are at their best for picking in early Spring, nettles and wild garlic, both are packed with goodness and combined, they make a very tasty and healthy lunch.   It can be incredibly satisfying to forage and make something delicious, with no need for a shopping trip. Add a few extra vegetables, whatever you have available at home.

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) has been a staple in herbal medicine since ancient times. Most concentrated in the growing tips, the plant contains a high content of nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin C (ten times more than an apple), and vitamin K along with easily absorbed calcium and iron. Read more...

The bees' search for nectar

The bees’ search for nectar

by blogs at woodlands ~ 18 January, 2021 ~ comments welcome

Using DNA technology and samples of honey from many different hives, scientists have been able to analyse the foraging behaviour of honey bees, and compare their findings with a study undertaken in the mid twentieth century. In the earlier study, honey samples were analysed by looking at the pollen grains present.  The shape and sculpting on a pollen grain is unique for each species.  

Back in the 1950s, honeybees gathered a lot of pollen and nectar from wild flowers, particularly plants like white clover (Trifolium repens).  As with so many wild flowers, there is far less white clover to be found in hedgerows, meadows and roadsides nowadays, so honeybees have to find alternatives - though white clover is a favourite if it can be found. Read more...

AI technology harnessing the hoverflies.

AI technology harnessing the hoverflies.

by Lewis ~ 2 November, 2020 ~ 2 comments

The loss of pollinators, particularly honey bees, may bring about a synergy between pollinators such as hover flies and artificial intelligence technology.  Honey bees (and indeed bumblebee)s have been hit hard by habitat loss, pollution, the  extensive use of pesticides and the spread of viruses and varroa.  Bees provide an important ecosystem service, namely pollination.   bees provide the majority of plant pollination world-wide but the bees are fighting a losing battle and this represents a threat to food supplies.  In the United States, bee hives are 'bussed around' in a somewhat 'cavalier manner', indeed "Hives may be moved multiple times and several thousand miles per year" Read more...

Medicine for bumblebees

Medicine for bumblebees

by Chris ~ 26 October, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Some 90% of the world's plants, including many food crops, rely on animals for pollination (as opposed to wind or even rarer water pollination). The contribution of honey bees and bumblebees to these pollination services is vital but they are at risk due to:

  • the effects of disease, 
  • climate change 
  • effects of pesticides and 
  • habitat loss / destruction.

Whilst it is sometimes possible to help hives / colonies of the ‘domesticated’ honeybee suffering from parasites / disease, ‘helping’ wild populations is a much more difficult proposition. Read more...

Bushcraft and survival skills at the Ultimate Activity Company, near Hereford

Bushcraft and survival skills at the Ultimate Activity Company, near Hereford

by Angus ~ 28 March, 2019 ~ one comment

I’ve never opened a tampon before, so my newfound friend Tamsin showed me how. Then I started unpeeling it to find it’s really just compacted cotton wool. Tampons turn out to be ideal for lighting a fire if you don’t have matches because they are really compressed cotton wool and can be lit with a small spark. I did have a fire steel in my survival kit box and just like our friendships, we were soon creating sparks and warming up.  We were at the Ultimate Activity Company’s short course on what to do in the wild when things go awry.

Andy, our trainer, with his background as a marine, explained the imaginary position we were in: on a sailing trip eight of us had moored our boat in a sheltered sea loch on the west coast of Scotland and during the night the wind riled up causing the boat to hit a rock. It sank, leaving us just enough time to get off with little more than what we stood up in (along with my survival kit in a watertight tin).   Two of the crew had gone off to get help - leaving six of us to survive outdoors, perhaps for several days. Read more...

foraging bee

Bumblebees ‘hooked’ on neonicotinoids?

by Chris ~ 1 September, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Researchers at Imperial College, London (Dr Andres Arce, Dr. Richard Gill et al) have been conducting field trials on the foraging behaviour of bumblebees and the effect of neonicotinoids.  As wild bees have a choice on where they feed, the researchers wanted to know if the bees could detect insecticides and learn to avoid them. Read more...

The Monthly Mushroom - Chicken of the Woods

The Monthly Mushroom – Chicken of the Woods

by Jasper Sharp ~ 7 September, 2017 ~ 3 comments

It might not be much to look at, but Laetiporus sulphureus sure tastes good on a plate. A relatively common adornment to many a tree in Summer and early Autumn, the legendary Chicken of the Woods is one of the tastiest edible mushrooms found in the UK, and also one of the most highly prized: as the name suggests, it has the taste and texture of chicken, and its firm flesh makes an ideal substitute in stews, stroganoffs, curries, pilaffs and other meat dishes.

Easily overlooked by those not in the know, it is instantly recognisable to the gourmet fungi forager, and bares little resemblance to other poultry-named fungi like the Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor) or the Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosa), the Japanese delicacy known as maitake. It is a bracket fungus that grows in large clusters of undulating fan-shaped shelves, the colour ranging from bright yellow to orange on its topside (hence the alternate common name Sulphur Shelf), with its yellowish underside pitted with pores from which it releases its spores and a firm white fleshy interior. Read more...

Woodland birds and deer

Woodland birds and deer

by Lewis ~ 20 July, 2017 ~ one comment

Woodlands throughout the U.K. currently support very large populations of various species of deer.  The indigenous deer species are Roe Deer and Red Deer.   Fallow Deer were introduced by the Normans but in the late C19th / early C20th Chinese water deer, Reeves Muntjac and sika deer arrived.  The three most widespread and abundant deer species now are Roe deer, Fallow deer and Reeves’ muntjac.

The total deer population is currently at a very high level  Read more...

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