November, the last gasp of autumn. Our dear little woods are still clinging to the last remnants of greenery as they invite us in.
There is still life to be found, down amongst the leaf litter. Most notably the jelly ear fungus, Auricularia auricula-judae. It is often found on dead elder trees and their fallen branches. It is sometimes called Judas’ Ear, due to the belief that Judas hanged himself on an elder tree, after betraying Jesus. Perhaps this is why folklore medicine used it to treat sore throats! This unappetising looking fungi is apparently edible, though used mainly for texture not taste, and it needs to be cooked. The Nepalese have three grades for mushrooms and this one is considered the worst. For those of you intrepid enough to try them, I have rustled up a recipe here.
There are a lot of other varieties of fungi to be found, I think these may be clustered bonnets. They look like the sort of mushrooms faeries would be found dancing around on a moonlit night, especially if one had been munching on the wrong sort of mushroom at the time.
Walking briskly, the breath steaming out of our mouths and hanging in the biting air, we reach the grazing area. The lush grass and wildflowers now replaced by brittle brown. The distant mountains are like ghosts slumped in the grey November skies. With the vegetation reduced, the iron age fort’s ramparts are more visible.
This exposed landscape is prone to frosts, giving the vegetative victims a sparkling frigid fringe.
Time to head back down, out of the whistling wind, through the sun dappled trees and home for hot toast and coffee. November might be cold and dark, but it does still have its merits, we can see that can’t we? Even if poet, Thomas Hood can’t:
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds,