I've really wanted to see a rare butterfly this year, but knew that I would have to go and hunt for one because there wouldn't be any chance of finding one here on the smallholding. So - on a warm, sunny afternoon last week - I visited Hockley Woods where I knew the Heath Fritillary could be found. This lovely butterfly was on the brink of extinction when it was re-introduced into habitats that have been carefully managed for it (although - even now - it only exists in a few locations, which are a couple of woods and immediate areas in the south east and a few areas in Devon and Cornwall). Hockley Woods, near Southend, is my nearest area to discover this little butterfly.
I'd read that the Heath Fritillary loves Common Cow Wheat and Foxgloves and flies from mid-June into July. I also know it's a sun-loving butterfly and it can only be seen in the woodland glades on warm, sunny days. Hockley Woods is a bit of drive from where I am and when I first arrived I had this feeling I'd be looking for a needle in a haystack. But, surprisingly, I saw one - and then another - fairly quickly. They really are beautiful butterflies - and I was lucky enough to take a few pics before they flew off.
I love the way this butterfly is settled right in the middle of this buttercup...
I'm not sure I'll get to see another butterfly as rare as the Heath Fritillary this summer, but I'm certainly hoping to see some more of the less common ones over the coming weeks.
Foraging: Beech Leaf Noyau...
When I went on the foraging course in May, I tried some Beech Leaf Noyau and loved it - so I decided to make my own to be ready to drink at midsummer. I made two bottles - and I have to report back that they're definitely going down well here.
Beech Leaf Noyau is a liqueur made from fresh, young beech leaves soaked in gin with sugar and brandy added. The recipe I used is as follows:
Fill a large jar almost to the top with young beech leaves. Pour some gin to just cover the leaves (I used a bottle of gin) and rest for 2-3 weeks. Then strain off the gin, and for every pint add 14oz of sugar dissolved in half a pint of boiling water. Then add a dash of brandy (I used a large glass and a bit of brandy, so I'm guessing this has given the drink its final, golden colour). Mix and then pour into bottles when cold.
...and Blackberry Vinegar
I'd been going through the freezer (clearing out the remainder of last year's fruit and veg to make space for this year's) when I came across a tub of blackberries. I'm not keen on eating them for dessert at the moment (we've just started on the strawberries), so I've made some Blackberry Vinegar as a salad dressing (ideal - as we've just begun the lettuces).
I've used this recipe:
Soak 1lb blackberries in a pint of white wine vinegar in a covered bowl for 4 days. Stir occasionally during that time. After 4 days, strain and measure the juice. Add 1lb sugar for every pint of juice. Heat the sugary juice gently in a pan until all the sugar dissolves and then bring to the boil. Let it cool and pour into bottles.
I prefer to make my own salad dressings and this summer I'm keen to try out several new and different ideas (hopefully some of these will be through more foraging).
Finally, I thought I'd just add a couple of pics of some of my roses, because they're looking so gorgeous at the moment;
A lovely standard rose...
This pink rose was already climbing over the front of the cottage when we moved in. I still don't know what variety it is, but it has a beautiful scent. We've since built a pergola before the cottage and it's one of the flowers that now romps all over this (so we walk under it to the front door).
I really must find out what it is!