I live in inner city Bristol and commute to work every day on foot via back streets and an off road cycle path (the Concorde Way). I started a new job in September and the bus route there wasn’t that helpful. I wasn’t sure if I would manage to walk to work everyday, but I’ve managed it so far, I’ve come to relish the peace it offers me after a difficult day in work – a decent set of waterproofs and spare shoes in work helps. I’ve experienced all manor of weathers – torrential downpours, blistering sun, snow and frosty icy mornings. I’ve been struggling with my mental health and have found that taking photos and trying to focus on my surroundings has been helpful. I’ve watched the seasons change around me from autumnal leaves, petrified frozen plants to blossomed trees and fledgling birds – the cycle path is a real corridor of nature.
I had a busy day today and wasn’t sure how I was going to have the time to get outdoors. I’ve been struggling to get up in the mornings and having to run to work due to lack of time. This morning I managed to make the effort to get out the house ten minutes earlier. The sky was grey and I wasn’t really sure if I was going to be able to do anything different with my walk. As I turned onto the cycle path a bright yellow dandy lion type flower caught my eye – dazzling yellow in the backdrop of grey. As I took my photo I started to notice more of the weeds around me – the cheerful buttercup, the greater plantain with it’s snowy crown – a wild edible, known for it’s healing properties – it can be a little stringy, but finely chopped it goes well in a chilli noodle soup.
As I looked over the bridge which runs over small I brook I admired the meadow which had developed due to the council not cutting the grass. I decided to have an explore and waded through the long grass to look at some large daisies – possibly Oxeye daisys which are listed on the spotters guide that I was sent as part of #30dayswild. It felt good to be off path amongst nature. I climbed back up onto the bridge with damp, grass seed covered legs, but all the better for my mini explore. I stopped to take in the strong scent of the elder-flower which was in bloom and admired its intricate flowers.
During the winter I loved seeing the line up of moss shoots on the wall, they would freeze and look like hundreds of chilly soldiers lined up for battle. They make a nice photo even when unfrozen. I like the fact you can’t quite work out what it is.
My route along the cycle path runs alongside allotments and its nice to see their progress as things start to emerge in the spring. Some of the allotment plants self seed onto the path and I noticed comfrey on my walk today – gardeners use it to make a plant food by cutting the leaves and soaking them. It smells horrible, but is really good for the plants. It’s also really good for you as a wild edible food.
I also noticed the cuckoo spit which was all over the greater plantain on a little green island of meadow next to the cycle path. I always assumed these were left behind from an insect, but a quick search on google tells me that the insect lives inside the froth.
There’s also a patch of Mare’s Tail near the green island. As a gardener this plant is a bit of a nemesis of mine. There is no way to get rid of it. Some people try chemical warfare, but it always comes back. I’ve never used weed killer on my allotment as it seems to defeat the point of growing your own if you take this approach. Mare’s Tail has been around since the dinosaurs and has roots so deep it has been found growing down into cave systems. For those growers out there it’s also a good fertilizer if soaked for a period of time and can help protect tomatoes against blight.
My time to stop and look was starting to run out. I admired the hardy Herb Robert plant, so hardy it is managing to grow through grit and railings and took a look at the complex bramble flower. A local naturalist, Steve England, introduced me to the wonder of bramble as an edible plant – if you find young shoots you can take off the skin with a potato peeler and eat what’s underneath – I imagine it would be really good in a stir fry, and everyone can recognise the bramble!
As I neared my work place a solitary ladybird seemed to announce the end of my wild stroll to work. It struck me how the least likely things can be overlooked, weeds are often quietly hiding in the background, being given little credit for the function they offer – this is something we can all identify with. Next time you are out wandering take a closer look at the weeds around you and give them the credit which they deserve.