In this crazy time, I'm finding it really helpful to be thankful for the little things: a misty dawn, the sight of the first swallow, that 6 o'clock drink in the sun. Amidst all the fear and uncertainty, one thing I'm grateful for is more time to indulge two of my favourite activities: reading and being in nature. At this time of year, wildflowers are springing up everywhere, bringing with them a sense of hope and an excitement that the warm, long days of summer are truly on their way. I love going out for my walk each day and seeing new life unfurling: blossom on a tree that was bare last week, shoots poking out of the ground, flowers springing into life. These are things we only notice when we have to slow down, when we really stop to look.
I've been a fan of florist and nature writer Willow Crossley for a while, and her new book, The Wild Journal, is just what we need right now: a reminder of the wonder that surrounds us, and a prompt to help us get back in touch with it.
So this post is just about some lovely, simple things you can find pleasure in each day: wildflowers to spot on your walks, and a delicious recipe for elderflower cordial from Willow. These are also fantastic activities to do with your little ones, getting them out and about in the fresh air, promoting a love of nature and brewing a concoction that will be more useful and delicious than mud pie!
Stay safe and enjoy,
Bluebells are a spring favourite: I love the carpet of vibrant purply-blue they make on a woodland floor, and, of course, their smell!
When the verges on my local lanes start frothing up with cow parsley, I truly know that summer is well on its way.
Foxgloves are beautiful, and fantastic for bees. But be careful: they're poisonous to humans.
Later in the summer you'll often see wheat fields dotted with the bright-blue, very delicate cornflowers (there are white ones too).
Poppies, which tend to come out in mid-June, are another favourite of mine: they are simultaneously zingy and elegant.
Elderflower Cordial - Makes about 1 Litre
25 elderflower heads (shake them before using in case there are any insects lingering)
Finely grated zest and juice of 3 unwaxed lemons and 1 orange (about 150ml of juice in total)
1kg caster sugar
1 heaped tsp citric acid (optional - this acts as a preservative as well as giving it a slight tang)
You will also need:
Muslin or fine mesh sieve
2 x 1 litre sterilised bottles with lids or corks
1) Put the flower heads in a large bowl and add the lemon and orange zest.
2) Bring 1.5 litres of water to the boil and pour over the elderflower and citrus zest mix.
3) Cover with a clean cloth and leave them overnight to infuse at room temperature.
4) Strain the liquid through a piece of muslin or fine mesh sieve and pour into a saucepan. Add the sugar, lemon and orange juice and citric acid if you are using it.
5) Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes. It will develop a syrupy thickness.
6) Use a funnel to pour the hot syrup into sterilised bottles. Seal the bottles with swing-top lids, sterilised screw-tops or sterilised corks.
TIP: Try drizzling elderflower cordial over strawberries for a delicious pudding, or stirring into whipped cream to make a midsummer gooseberry fool.
(Recipe extracted from: The Wild Journal: A Year of Nurturing Yourself Through Nature by Willow Crossley, available to purchase at willowcrossley.com)