Hedgerow Hippy

The ramblings of the Strathearn Herbalist

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Wishing Well

An Adventure in which Hedgerow Hippy and her Trusty Apprentice encounter a Kingdom, a Hillfort and a Magical Well…

In search of an adventure in Perth that didn’t involve a pub, we headed up to Kinnoull Hill. It started out with a disappointing (and pretty steep) gravelly path but we took the first opportunity to take a detour into the woods and discovered a beautiful maze of paths winding a bit more gently around the hill. I much prefer a leisurely zig zag than a mad march straight to the top.

Starting out in a dapply Birch Wood with loads of flowering Wood Sage along the path edges, we climbed over a few fallen Larches before coming to a clearing full of my latest obsession – grasses. This year, I’ve been really taken with the different types of grasses – amazing architectural and textural variety. If you’d told me 10 years ago that I’d find grasses even remotely interesting I’d have laughed so hard! But I suppose once the conifers have got you, a line is crossed and no botanical obsession is too weird…

When we reached the top, a hazy horizon failed to match the lookout plaque – no mountains to be seen today. But there were wise words etched into the bench – Think Global, Act Local.

think global act local

It’s a sentiment I’m familiar with but I’m less familiar with the name it is attributed to – Patrick Geddes. A quick Wiki makes me want to read more though…

We press on round the path to another look out point. This is more like what we were expecting! A dizzying view across the silvery Tay to the Kingdom of Fife .

across the Silvery Tay

I know. The picture doesn’t do it justice. We tried a few different ideas to give it a bit of perspective but, really, you just need to get yourself up that hill and see it for yourself.

En route to the Hillfort, a glimpse through the trees caught my breath… no less impressive on discovering it was in fact a carving.

bird through the trees bird carving

The real discovery was yet to come though. Whenever we’re out and about he inevitably gets the phone out and has a look for any Geocaches that are about. Kinnoull Hill is hoaching with them! So we went up to the hillfort and for the ‘virtual cache’ – photo evidence:


Then went looking for Lady Grey’s well. I’ve got mixed feelings about geocaching but its when it leads you to discoveries like this that I love it. Yes, it’s a plastic box with some random nick nacks in it at the base of a tree (they’re always at the base of a tree!) but while he was signing the little book to say we’ve found it, I was taking in the atmosphere of the Well. It’s a Clootie Well – a kind of wishing well where you tie a piece of cloth to a tree to heal you of some affliction or make a wish for your future.

A red neckerchief stood out immediately but the longer I stood the more and more ribbons and baubles became apparent. A long pink ribbon from someone I imagine to be a Polish immigrant.

pink ribbon

“I wish for a chance to belong and to find determination in everything I do but most of all to be happy and for others to find happiness too – K xx”

A Swan Vesta match box from someone I imagine wants to give up smoking (and chocolate, the person who tied on a Thorntons ribbon).

A poignant Marie Curie Daffodil which simply reads ‘thank you’.

I cut the ribbon off my notebook and made a wish as I tied it to the tree (not telling – if you tell, it doesn’t come true!)

And so we headed off to Boaby’s Wood (stop it!!! No, I laughed all the way there…) before the rain came on…

Shelter from the storm

My Sister and her Island Man gave me a lovely wee book called the Healing Wells of the Western Isles by Finlay MacLeod. In the intro, he discusses the role of ritual in effecting healing. Certainly, the pilgrimage to such a well and the symbolism of leaving your wish or leaving your illness behind on the cloot to be washed clean by the spirit of the well has the power to be an effective placebo. However, each  of the wells in the book has a specific range of powers to heal certain illnesses so I wonder about the plants that grow nearby. Could they leach their healing properties into the well water? What about the mineral composition of the rocks the water flows through? Indeed, the book describes some wells as having water which is ‘full of iron’ or with a ‘film resembling oil’ to be seen on the surface of the water.

On the other hand, I have been thinking alot recently about the psychology of health. The way that people respond to health and ill health is fascinating. When writing my dissertation, I also became fascinated by the nature of mental health – the way we separate the psychological from the physiological and how it wasn’t always that way. It is intriguing that many of the Wells described in book are credited with the power to heal all sorts of nervous or mental illnesses, from ‘insanity’ to dementia, toothache to deafness!

So, i’ve been pondering on the words Wishing Well. At first glance its a ‘well’ where you get water but now, thinking about it, I wonder which came first. The well that holds water or the water that makes you well?


An Awesome Walk (and carnage at Sally Ardoch)

I take my hibernation quite seriously and don’t usually venture out much at this time of year. But prompted by the mild weather and by Aye Can’s Facebook campaign to Get up and Go, I went down to the woods for the first time this year. What a mess! It was carnage – trees down all over the place. I took pictures but I don’t think they capture devastation. You could almost see where the wind had funnelled through the woods toppling tree after massive tree as it went. Once they’re all cleared away there will be a distinct gap in the woodland floor. If you have a fire in the house, this would be a good time to stock up on wood (as evidently some have been doing). As well as the giant conifers, there are plenty of smaller birches and rowans down too.

It was a beautiful walk though. I stopped to watch the Roe deer grazing in the stubbly fields for a while (easing myself in gently you know?). The hedgerows are showing signs of life; Sweet Cicely poking through at the horse gate, tiny Gallium shoots at the layby and Dandelion and Plantain all over the place. Sweet Woodruff in its usual spots but it looks like last year’s growth rather than new. As I was pondering this I was disturbed by an almighty noise and looked up expecting to see geese. Instead, 5 swans, beating their powerful wings and gabbling to each other, sailed over the treetops. Awesome in every sense of the word.

Making my way through the woods, I came across this young tree which just shone at me as I passed. I’ve never seen such a metallic silver bark. Oddly, I think this means it’s a Downy Birch rather than a Silver Birch but apparently they hybridise so it could be a bit of both. I’ll keep an eye on this one I think and see what it does as it grows.

As I reached the gate at Tigh Ban I could see it was getting dark but I had heard tales of wild garlic up in Crieff (I know! It’s January!) So, as I didn’t have anything waiting for me at home except my tax return, I took a right and headed for the beach. This gave me a good opportunity to take some pictures of the Tilia down that way. They are quite different to the church ones – more upright and rounded. I’ll add them to the Tree Year file for comparison and attempt an ID at some point. Sadly I didn’t find any garlic – a few moments of excitement but it turned out to be young docks. As well as all the advice about not picking anything unless you’re sure what it is etc. I think I’ll add “don’t attempt to ID in the dark”!

I wandered down to the beach for a few moments contemplation before I headed home. It’s always different down there. Changing river levels, floods and a certain amount of excavation, constantly change the way the water flows. In an isolated but still deep pool, I saw the tell tale ripples of fish rising. I hoped they would make it out before the pool shrunk any more but as this passed through my mind a Heron took off from the far bank and circled overhead – they may make easy pickings I fear.

Turning for home, yet another sight to stir my Winter soul from hibernation: shining in the twilight sky, Jupiter and Venus! Which reminded me – apparently tonight there is a good chance of seeing the Aurora borealis. But looking to the North, the mountains were already almost hidden and in the West, more dark clouds were rising. I stopped awhile as I passed the woods on the way home to stargaze through the bare branches of the Winter trees…

A magical end to a magical walk.

[pictures hopefully to follow – computer gremlins…]

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[TREE YEAR] Summer Harvest

tilia close up on dark So, I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped for the Tree Year (it didn’t help that they chopped my trees down though). I got a harvest of flowers from the trees in the park in August but I think they’re different types of tree because they are much smaller than the Church ones and they don’t seem to sprout at the base. This afternoon I have some hope that the Church trees are showing hopeful signs of regrowth though and i’ll continue to post on their progress. I have alot more to share about the wonderful properties of the Tilia flowers but, for today, with a whisky induced headache, I simply offer some pictures of a Summer harvest to look forward to…

tilia a mass of flowers

tilia close up on tree

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Yes I know this is now 6 months late! But last time I looked it was April. What happened to Summer? It makes me feel a bit sad to look at these pictures now. Spring had just sprung after an awful Winter, the air was warming up and I looked forward to a Summer sitting underneath my Tilia trees…

But then came May with late frosts, June with unseasonal gales and Summer ended up just dull, damp and disappointing. Now Winter looms again and I never did spend as much time as I had hoped with my trees.

I did spend much of April sitting under them though; knitting hearts for my newest niece Cara; taking time out to read a book and not a computer screen; snoozingzzz and taking pictures as the plants unfurled around me…


APRIL’S BLUE SKIES – the unfulfilled promise of Summer 2011


[TREE YEAR] April's blue skies


APPLE BLOSSOM – sadly lost to the late frosts of May – no apples

[TREE YEAR] Apple blossom


HAWTHORN – blossom just about to burst…
[TREE YEAR] Hawthorn blossom


MOTHER ELDER – stretching bony fingers in the warm Spring air
[TREE YEAR] Mother Elder

As for my Tilia trees? The miraculous development of a canopy, that I had imagined, didn’t happen. The lady across the road would say to me as she passed “don’t worry, they’ll come…” Something to look forward to next Spring?


Medicinal Meanders Around Muthill

With predictions of an early snowfall followed by promises of an Indian Summer, no-one knew quite what to expect of the weather for the Crieff and Strathearn Drovers’ Tryst this year. But Saturday came and went fairly dry and fingers were crossed for my walk. Sunday dawned, grey and damp but nothing wet was falling from the sky at least. My trusty backmarker and I made our way to the Crieff Visitor Centre to meet our walkers and what a lovely bunch they were!

An immediate ease settled on the group and we all chatted away happily as we waited for everyone to arrive. Then off we set. We met our last two walkers in Muthill and headed through the village and out along the bug road.

As we trailed through the woods many of us started to peel off some layers and by the time we broke from the cover of the trees the sun was splitting the sky. I kid you not. It was properly, actually sunny! [Tryst walk] sun on our faces Along the farm track and onto the old railway track, we stopped to take pictures of the stunning views and enjoy the beautiful feel of the sun on our faces. It was still very wet underfoot but we were all well prepared for that so we hardly noticed as the group mingled back and forwards chatting and getting to know each other.

[Tryst walk] Under the Bridge Under the bridge and heading out to the river the wind got up a bit and clouds came over but it stayed dry and the cool was welcome. The only near disaster was that some of the plants we had reccied only two weeks previously had almost disappeared! My plucky apprentice (and backmarker) managed to hunt down some Yarrow though and, having nearly given up on the St John’s Wort, I gave a big cheer as we discovered some further along the track. Time was getting on and we knew there was coffee and cake waiting for us back at the Hall so we headed up for an easy trek back to the village on a quiet back road.

What a pleasant surprise we found at the Hall! The Muthill Paths and Walking Group had laid on quite a spread! Mountains of tasty rolls were devoured, tea and coffee flowed and a wonderful range of home baking was sampled by a very appreciative bunch of Medicinal Meanderers. A happy, warm glow spread round the room. Eventually, everyone made their farewells and went on their way offering compliments and thanks all round.

[Tryst walk] washing up

Tables were cleared, cups and saucers washed and this pleasantly puggled Herbalist and her wilting backmarker headed home. It was wonderful to part of such a great festival and to have the support of the generous and lovely people from the walking group. Heartfelt thanks to everyone for making it a truly magical day.

♥ ♥ ♥

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Passed! First Aid certificate 3rd Oct 2011

I just heard that I passed my  Emergency First Aid course! Huge thanks to the Drover’s Tryst for organising and funding it. I got a place on it because I’ll be leading a walk for them next week (Medicinal Meander Around Muthill). It’s a low level, easy walk exploring the wealth of medicinal plants still thriving in our hedgerows. Sadly, (gladly!) its now fully booked but if you like the look of it, please do get in touch and if I get enough enquiries I’ll run another one.

The first aid course was run by BASP, the British Association of Ski Patrollers, which was ideal for the group, many of whom will be leading high level, hard and extra hard walks. As well as Basic Life Support, we had the opportunity to practice out of doors and learn about scenarios we are likely to encounter in remote outdoor situations. Our instructor was excellent. She is  a Mountain Rescue volunteer, a Ski Patroller and she is a nurse in the Cardiac Unit – we were in expert hands! Her confident, warm approach put us all at ease and we passed – yay!

It was great to meet some of the other walk leaders. I’m really chuffed to be a part of The Tryst this year (a big thank you to the Muthill Paths and Walking Group for putting me forward). It’s a fantastic week to explore Strathearn, with outdoor walks and mountain biking as well as a programme of educational and entertaining social events. Have a look round the website and see what takes your fancy. Strathearn is guaranteed to be buzzing next week! Maybe I’ll see you around…