Drizzly morning ramble

 In foraging

This morning seemed all too typical of a winter morning in Belfast – a bit of drizzle, low cloud, pretty cold. Well, I had to collect some material for tomorrows workshop making Christmas wreaths, so I took the dog and we went over to Shaw’s Bridge to collect some stuff from beside the river. Armed with my trusty secateurs, we went down to the river at the Minnowburn and of course, Freda went straight into the water. Her enthusiasm for the swim was very infectious, and throwing sticks for her to fetch really lifted my heart.

We went on towards Edenderry, and the woods echoed with the sounds of jays, and I managed to see quite a few, close up too. I was amazed at the numbers of Blue Tits along the tow-path bushes, and although I was on the lookout for Bramblings (none about), I saw plenty of other stuff. My highlight was a group of 4 treecreepers, calling noisily and chasing through the riverside alders. I always harbour secret feelings of smugness when I see (and hear) a treecreeper, because usually everyone else around hasn’t a clue that such brilliant wee birds are zipping about around their heads.

I passed a Song Thrush feeding in the field just over the fence. It was clearly unafraid and knew that I was on the wrong side of the wire, so it just got on with its foraging as I got on with mine.

I cut and gathered a great arm-full of nice straight and whippy dogwood cuttings – bright red and perfect for moulding into the circular wreaths. There was a good bit of holly about, but hardly any berries – probably already picked by the guys at the markets, but fair play to them. To get decent holly berries, one would need to make a trip to the Mournes or Glens of Antrim, where holly is abundant. There was some nice willow as well, best for cutting where a big branch has fallen over, and the new growth has grown vertically nice and straight. There were some nice hazel sticks as well, and they went into the mix. By this stage I felt that I had collected enough, and decided to head for home.

Now I know why some people bring a towel for the dog after a walk – Freda was very wet and very muddy, and I was driving a hired car that I had to bring back later in the day. Fortunately I had a couple of old rugs in the car, and they were spread over the boot and back seat to prevent me having to forfeit £40 for a valet.

So despite the gloomy outlook, a succesful morning. Dog walked, work done, result.

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