Fletcher’s Mill Circular, Greenfield, Lancs
A beautiful spring morning and we are on the hunt for confirmation that spring has definitely sprung. With a nip still in the air but the morning sun promising to warm us up, we set off with Herber backpack and binos at the ready to see what was happening. Into the gates and cross over Chew Brook to begin the riverside stretch with Chew Brook bubbling along nicely after the recent rains. First spot just after the bridge – the bright yellow markings on the willow catkins – we can use these colourful little white and yellow markers to easily identify the tree and as a reminder to us to keep looking up as well as along the ground!
Good to see the bluebells out in force and a sign that we are in a broadleaf woodland which gives us another clue as to what may lie ahead. Sure enough – a little further on, we find lesser celandine or Ranunculus ficaria characteristically nestling in the dried leaves under a sycamore tree. A good time to nibble the small leaves before the flower causes bitterness. And almost immediately adjacent, the wonderful wood avens, herb bennet (Geum urbana) also known as clove root because the roots containing eugenol can be cooked up with into a syrup for dispelling toothache. We have a good root around here to capture some of the distinctive aroma without disrupting the patch.
A little further towards the mill path, we spy a few patches of one of the morning’s prizes – Urtica dioica better known as the nettle! We chat about creamed nettle and garlic – perfect for warding off any spring colds. Then conversation turns to nettle tea and the strong mineral content – The nettle creeps into the seasonal diaries most seasons of the year in various remedies, but for now we are interested in using the young leaves fresh and drying the stems. Lots of valiant attempts to collect the leaves follow!!! Great conversation about the now disused, paper mill and workers’ cottages with wonderful personal affiliations from many of us took us happily up towards Dovestones. Passing by dandelions ‘dent de lion’, pissy weed to its friends, and some glorious hawthorn beginning to show promise of the pink and white blossom that would soon decorate the canopy. We wandered slowly along the reservoir enjoying views of heather and bracken and back down the other side of Chew Brook back to the starting point & refreshments …..