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I love immersing myself in the sense of place when I walk in our local woodland, taking time to absorb the colours, textures, scents and sounds. I find it grounding, deeply relaxing, a release from stress, anxiety and unhelpful recurrent thought patterns. If I have a mild headache I sometimes find it is gone soon after entering the woods; when living in London I found working in the community walled herb garden in Brockwell Park had a similar benefit. Often I have the woods to myself but at this present time there are more people around as they are limited in where they can go for exercise so I try to get out early when it is quieter and I am more likely to spot wildlife.
I love the white flowered stitchwort that is now appearing alongside the bluebells, and the new beech leaves hanging soft from the branches before they fill out and stiffen.
The paths are lined with cow parsley, sometimes reaching my shoulder height. I passed a big patch of comfrey in flower on Saturday, a herb that I used to use together with other herbs such as Calendula officinalis, lavender and Hypericum perforatum to make a healing ointment for the skin because of its allantoin content. Herbalists decided a long time ago not to use comfrey internally and are now discouraged from using externally as well because of its pyrrolizidine alkaloids that are toxic in large or accumulated doses. I still enjoy seeing it, it is a handsome plant and wonderful for bees.
A gorgeously vibrant green is everywhere with the new growth and many of these plants used to be part of our diet in the days when the new season for farmed vegetables was only just beginning and we would often be suffering from mild scurvy after the winter months. Chickweed, nettles, cleavers (wash then stand overnight to infuse in cold water for a delicious drink), ramsons, hawthorn and linden leaves, garlic mustard (or Jack-by-the-hedge, as my partner calls it), cuckoo flower, dandelion leaves.... it's a list that just goes on and on and I enjoy welcoming them all back. I sometimes wonder if we are hardwired to love that green because it draws our attention to plants containing beneficial nutrients. If you would like to try them for yourself there are plenty of recipes out there, beginning with Food for Free by Richard Mabey. Do check carefully that you have identified plants correctly before you eat them! There have been a number of cases of poisoning due to mistaken identity, from people making tea from foxglove leaves instead of comfrey to picking and eating deadly nightshade berries mistaken for bilberries. It is also best to avoid the Umbelifferae family; as with mushrooms the poisonous ones can be easily confused with the non-poisonous unless you know what you are doing. However, many plants can be picked with confidence so enjoy a little bit of food for free, and the connection with nature that comes with them.