Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Foraging Before The Fair

The weekend was really quite an eventful one for Dorset. Here in Bournemouth there was to be the  annual air show, now a massive event to which throngs of people from all over the world descend. We have been to a few, and if you can work your way to a good clifftop location (and even camp at the tops of some of the Chines as some of our friends did this year!), then you are promised four days of thrills and spills. As you can see from the front page of our local rag below, this year was the biggest yet. We knew it was going to be a big one, what with the fantastic weather we are having, but we wanted something a little more settled and peaceful for ourselves, and so headed inland away from the hordes.
What with the allotment and all, our freezer is packed, and so I had to purchase another, much larger one, to go into one of the sheds in the garden. The allotment is still producing, and we now have the promise of pumpkin, butternut squash, rhubarb, marrows, more courgettes, more tomatoes than you can shake a stick at, and yet more beans. Along with that, we decided to start foraging for elderberries, blackberries and sloes. The plan is to have a winter full of sumptuous pies, warming liqueurs, rich jams and tasty cordials. And so...........
.....we headed into the countryside to find some hedgerows.

It really is the right time for all of the berries we were looking for. We found enough sloes to make a bottle of sloe gin, but the things that were really in abundance were the elderberries and blackberries. You have to be careful when picking, especially in shorts, as the nettles are also thriving . Even these can be used, and we plan to lightly steam or sautee the younger shoots to make a new and different addition to a hot meal. Here I was trying to get the blackberries, while at the same time avoiding nettles up my shorts........I failed miserably! But, no pain  no gain, as my grandmother used to say.

The area is only a half hour drive from home, and it's so beautiful out here. Miles and miles of little lanes, and villages with names like Gussage All Saints, Bowerswain and Sixpenny Handley. It was at Gussage All Saints, while filling our buckets with elderberries, that we came across a very quaint little riverside cottage with this outside. To the left is a large open chicken coup sort of area, and in the display itself were homemade jams and pickles, bunches of cut flowers and small amounts of veg. I am enjoying some of the orange and grapefruit marmalade on some homemade bread as I sit here doing this. At only £2.00 a jar, it was irresistable, and we took half the display. The gooseberry jam is particularly scrummy!

We spent hours picking, and met some lovely people along the way.
Eventually, we got rather tired, as it had been a very long day. We still had to strip the elderberries from their stalks, and wash and freeze everything, a task that was to take another three hours. The first of the buckets were put on the kitchen table, and we set about the task of dragging forks through the elderberries to de-stalk them.
We kept a small amount in some bowls for next day use, and froze the rest. All in all a very enjoyable AND productive day, if a very late to finish one.

The following day, and it was back out to the same area for the Great Dorset Steam Fair.
It was incredibly hot and dry. Dust, smoke and steam truly filled the air. The whole event happens over five days each year, and is so large that it is like a small town. You can camp overnight if you wish, and join in the music festvals in the evening, as well as the fairgound etc, all powered by some 64 steam showmans engines.

It's really quite unusual, because even though there are traction engine and the like trundling along constantly, steam is incredibly quite. Most of the noise comes from the ancient bodyworks that have been lovingly restored, clanking, rattling and squeaking, and of course the occasional deafening whistle. There were all of these throwbacks to the industrial revolution, and yet they made less noise than modern cars on the main road nearby. The commentator described the sound of the engines quite accurately as 'a quiet cacophony'.
There were demonstrations of their might and power, really quite something.
And reconstructions of working environments. These guys were having a break, and enjoying a huge breakfast that was being cooked the traditional way by the lady of the group. They actually lay a tarmac road each day, using traditional tools and steam powered rollers. At the end of each day the road is taken up, and the whole process starts again next day. They must enjoy it.

As well as the traction and showmans engines, there were a couple of trains, vintage motorcycles and cars, and gigantic diesel engined army 'movers'.

All being lovingly wiped down and oiled continually to keep them clean and running.

This was one of the 64 showmans engines that power the whole site. This particular one was discovered several years ago as a rusty shell of it's former glory. Now she looks stunning once more. And the sheer power that these things produce is really qquite awesome.

Sometimes the things that they had to tow were so heavy that they linked a few together to get the power. As the arena was quite steeply sloped, they would gun the engines for all they were worth on the uphill, and thick black smoke, brown steam, and dust would envelope the crowd.
The whole place really does have a sort of post apocalyptic feel about it. A bit like the industrial revolution meets Thunderdome.
 Are we going next year? You bet, and then we are living there for the whole five days.


  1. The steam fair is exactly my cup of tea. I am in awe and admiration of them.

  2. Hi Adrian,
    I know how you feel. Can't wait for next year now to escape for a few days, and enjoy the real ale and junk food.

  3. Bye the way....have you ever been to this one?

  4. Wow, what great foraging and harvesting and that steam show looks very interesting.

    Have a great week ~ FlowerLady

  5. The Steam Fair seems most interesting and what a nice crop of wild berries! There used to be orchards around here, so what we mostly pick in the hedgerows are "wild" apples and choke cherries, a native small cherry you can make wine or jelly with.

  6. Hi Lorraine,
    We hope to get some more soon. The steam fair is quite something, very atmospheric. You too.

  7. Hi Alain,
    I had never heard of the chokeberry, and so have just looked it up. Quite the superfruit healthwise by all accounts. And now available in Marks & Spencer over here!

  8. Gary,
    What a wonderful weekend this must have been and I am already looking forward to you Christmas post with said pie’s liqueurs and cordials on display in all their glory, lol.

    What an amazing place to spend the day gathering berries, nettles not with standing, lol. And to come across that wonderful roadside produce stall, wonderful.

    The Steam Fair looked a fantastic event witness. I much enjoyed your posted videos of the event, which only fanned my interest in steam power and it’s beautiful machines. This event must go on my personal bucket list. I am now going to have to do some research into the event and it’s participants.

    Hoping you guys have as wonderful week as the weekend. – gary

  9. We have similar events here. Everyone loves to see those old machined do their stuff. Don't know of any that run so many days though.
    What good picking on the berries and a great find that little stand. Yum-O!

  10. I would have loved to join in with every one of your weekend events Gary. What a foraging haul you have, marvellous, and the stall with the honour box, I would have cleared out those shelves too. You've shared a lovely taste of rural life, great to see it still exists.