Country Diary: Experience wild heather in all its glory

Flowering heather on the North York Moors.

Here we go round the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush, we sang in the school playground, did you?

I used to imagine a bush, but my first encounter with the mulberry was a tree! Walking by Scarborough’s Sixth Form College, I was surprised to find an area of pavement covered in what resembled blackberries. Strange? No sign of any brambles at all.

Looking up I discovered a tree laden in these berries. Always willing to sample anything, I was delighted to find them edible, and as sweet as blackberries, but unfortunately too high to gather for a pie!

As far as I’m aware, the chief use of the mulberry, is for its leaves. Silk worms are fed on mulberry leaves to produce silk.

Life’s been pretty hectic both in the home and garden, and outdoors with Michael and our dog Tigga too. Ayton’s Art Exhibition had to fit into our schedule, and is always most uplifting, especially viewing country and coastal scenes we’ve visited.

We almost missed our annual trip to Muston. The village’s internationally-acclaimed scarecrow festival had reached its last day. We just had to go and join the thousands, faithfully following Muston’s popular scarecrow ‘tradition’ first started here in 1999. It’s always a resounding success, bringing together a community spirit; imagination and hard work; humour and happy faces.

Well done Muston. Grand to know that parking fees and refreshment takings were to be used to the benefit of the village.

The main cause is to financially support the complete refurbishment of the village hall’s kitchen facilities. Funds will also go towards the new playgroup.

A grey, cloudy afternoon found us crossing heather moorland along a section of the Jugger Howe Trail. The bell heather was almost over, but the true heather or ling dominated extensive tracts, with bogs and wild flowers punctuating the route. Winds blowing from the north bore the exciting scent of sheep, readily recognised by Tigga! His excitement knew no bounds! Dogs must be kept leashed, but regrettably a few dog owners fail to comply with the requests.

Heather is perhaps our most widely known wild flower. It has many economic uses. It provides food for sheep and grouse, material for fuel, thatching, basketwork and brooms, and an orange dye. It has been used for flavouring ale too in some places. 
The dried flower heads make a good tea. [A ‘moorland tea’ is 
a drink I have to yet to sample!]

Now - our pal Martin loves walking fields and woodlands in the silence of evenings. Whilst we’ve encountered moorland flowers of tormentil, harebell, yarrow and eyebright, he’s met with the attention of a hare!

Whilst walk a local field, a hare has approached him. On three of four occasions, it has ventured close, then run ahead, and then returned to him, before finally departing. We wonder why it has shown such behaviour?

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