The story so far.....share your thoughts and photos about fruits and nuts along the Trail to help us create a community Top 50!

Every September, ripening fruits and nuts offer a wild harvest for birds, mammals and people to enjoy along The Ridgeway. Trees can be laden with apples, hazelnuts and walnuts, whilst the hedgerows can be colourful with blackberries, elderberries, sloes and rosehips. Enjoying such seasonal change is a simple, everyday way of ‘tuning into nature’ and this can boost people’s sense of wellbeing. Read on below to find out more….

Banner image: Apples in hedgerows along The Ridgeway.

Solitary large Walnut trees are a striking and surprising feature of The Ridgeway in Berkshire and a reminder of the Romans. Walnut was brought to this country by the Romans and it is their myth that the God Jupiter dined on them whilst he was on earth which gave rise to the botanical name Juglans regia (the royal nut of Jupiter). It has been widely planted throughout the UK ever since and its nuts enjoyed by mammals including squirrels and mice, as well as people. Just north of The Ridgeway, Walnut orchards were once a feature of the village of Drayton, Oxfordshire, where the soils lie over Greensand rather than Chalk.

Another Ridgeway nut is the hazelnut found on Hazel trees. Historically, this tree was managed for various uses and there are numerous examples of coppiced Hazels on the Trail’s boundaries.

Fruits are another wild food to be found, with numerous varieties of Apple being a special feature around the Oxfordshire-Wiltshire border near Bishopstone. Historically, apples and other orchard products such as cider were given to farm workers as a form of payment for their labour. Traditions such as wassailing indicate how important the autumn harvest was in the past and villages near to The Ridgeway, such as Brightwell-cum-Sotwell in South Oxfordshire, continue this traditional custom. At least 63% of England’s orchards have been lost since the 1950s and so fruit and nut trees across the countryside are important to conserve for wildlife and people.

Imagine the many wanderers who have passed along The Ridgeway over the centuries, enjoying the wild foods as they travel….

Caution: Some plants are not edible to humans so always check an authoritative source before consuming to avoid poisoning etc, e.g. Woodland Trust Responsible Foraging Guide. Always leave some wild foods intact for wildlife to thrive.

Notes: More information about fruit-bearing shrubs such as Blackthorn, as well as food, drink and farming and local customs linked to paganism, is available in other Top 50 entries (not all Top 50 entries will be available until end of December 2023).

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