Yesterday evening we watched a couple of Red Fox cubs on our front lawn enjoying the peanuts, sultanas and jam sandwiches that we had left out for them. They were followed by a very lively Badger that hoovered up the remains.
And, then, this morning we went on a walk brilliantly led by Irene looking at some of the plants found along the coastline close to the village of Brook. The photo above gives some idea of the variety of plants that are flowering at the moment.
We came across a swathe of Hop plants and I was surprised to learn that the Isle of Wight was the fifth largest producer of hops in the mid-1850s. One reference I came across informs us that, ‘
The Royal Navy who had a huge presence in Portsmouth had a far more liberal attitude to alcohol than these days and needed to make sure that their sailors had enough beer to drink. Although the agricultural land in Hampshire is fine for malting barley its shallow chalky soil is not suitable for hops. The agricultural land on the Isle of Wight, particularly in the Arreton Valley, on the other hand was perfect. Sadly the navy’s disapproval of drunken sailors and the import of cheaper foreign hops made hop production unviable and the practice died out.’
There are a lot of big Burdock plants around at the moment. Irene is from Scotland and delighted in telling us the story of the Burry Man who, about this time each year, makes his way through South Queensferry in Scotland preceded by a boy ringing a bell.
He’s actually covered with thousands of Burdock burrs. The origins of the Burry Man are shrouded in mystery but the tradition nowadays is that he drinks a glass of whiskey with a straw at each of the pubs on his route….and a toilet stop is not an option.
The Edinburgh City Museum writes: “The task of being Burry Man is extremely demanding, requiring stamina, a strong bladder, an indifference to the discomfort caused by more penetrative burrs, and a conviction that this custom should not die out.”