Monday, 6 October 2008

Compass Group Report September 2008

September is one of the best times of year for going out and for cooking foraged food. The summer is over and it is easy to get depressed with the dark coming early and the cold winds start to blow but if we make the effort to go out there is a lot of fun to be had and some very nice food to be found. Everyone had enjoyed the summer and had been going out a lot. We had got better at walking and were fitter and happier than we had been for a long time. Some people were worried that over the winter things would go back to the way they were and next spring it would be hard work all over again. Everyone met up and talked about what to do. The cooking group wanted blackberries, apples, chestnuts and anything else that could be found in West Norfolk. The two groups decided to work together. We became Hunter Gatherers! The nearest woods with a bus stop is Sandringham, we all knew there are lots of trees. People remembered going there when they were children to get conkers. Shane told the group that we need to be careful because there may be poisonous things in the woods. Paul and Lily said that if we have an expert and a book we will be fine and a date was set. Chris wrote a workbook for everyone to use, this told them how to identify different trees and had exercises so people could work out the rough age of trees. We looked at different trees and identified the differences between conifers and broad leaves, we talked about deciduous and evergreen and we looked at the different ways trees set seeds. Lily wanted Sweet Chestnuts and she was on a mission! So, what is the differences between a Sweet Chestnut (eating) and a Horse Chestnut (conker)? We agreed that we would only ever pick up chestnuts if they were still in the seed case, the spiky green coating, this way we can be sure that we are getting the right ones. It was still too early in the year to collect any so we made notes of which trees we would come back to. A Horse Chestnut has a case with a few spikes on, most people know what a conker looks like and these must not be eaten. A Sweet Chestnut has a case of the same sort of colour but is covered in hundreds of spikes. The leaves of the the trees are different as well and here is Lily looking and feeling a Sweet Chestnut, she said the leaves feel shiny. Now we knew where to go in October we will collect some up later. A few of the members said that they liked mushrooms and had seen on TV people going out to pick them. David said that we would not be touching any mushrooms or fungi as unless you know exactly what you are doing things can go very badly and some people have died. Everyone agreed that if the Cooking Group wanted mushrooms they can get them from the shop. We did find some interesting fungi though so we took pictures of them and will look them up in books. By this time of year we are getting to the end of the blackberries, these are the last for this season so we left them for the birds. It is important to only take some berries, not all, from any one place. We are here to share with the birds and other animals. We spent time looking at lots of trees and worked out what they were and what they could be used for, we also found some interesting things. Here is one tree with a different tree growing out of it. And here is an Oak tree with its acorns. The woods can be strange sometimes, we saw a few people but not that many. We had been looking at some fir trees and we thought we were completely alone, when we turned around there was a fresh dog track.
No one had noticed or heard a thing and there was no dog in sight.

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