All in a Day's Walk

A month-long slow food walking performance

Organic Wednesday

Holloway at Hoarwithy Dropped chard

A walk to the organic veg farm at Aconbury, then back (or so I intended) via Henclose organics (goats milk) and Carey Organic farm shop. Both veg producers – who supply the Fownhope farm shop too – have been mainstays during the past month. And I’ve heard that the Henclose unpasteurised goats milk is superb.

It’s very overcast, and the walk along the road to Hoarwithy slow and tedious, enclosed between high hedges. Crossing the Wye at Hoarwithy, I pass behind the church and pick up the Herefordshire Trail – one of the most newly instituted trails that allows walkers to circambulate the county, taking in all the major market towns and crossing some of the interesting landscape features on the way. (Walking has become an important income stream for the county since the farming community and economy was decimated following the foot and mouth disease crisis in 2001.)

It’s not raining, and I’ve been grateful that for a change, I’ve not got wet feet. Until following a footpath that passes straight through a farmyard I sink up to my knees in mud and slurry. Oh well…

On the way to Aconbury I stumble on a fantastic den of sticks in the woods. Then the faintest glimmer of blue appears in the sky (As always the bizarre line comes into my head: ‘Is it enough to make a sailor a pair of trousers?’, half-remembered from a Victoria Wood sketch that has stuck with me since childhood).

When I eventually arrive at the farm, it’s lunchtime and when I knock tentatively on the door, the family – at least two generations, by the look of it – are about to sit down to some food. So I don’t want to intrude or ask for an audio recording… I explain what I’m doing, ask them if I can buy some veg from curious ‘shop’ housed in what can only be described as a dark green plastic container (yes, leave money in the honesty box), then exchange a couple of pleasantries about the weather. One thing the farmer does say is that it’s been a challenge to grow broccoli in these increasingly wet winters – ‘it doesn’t like getting its feet wet’ he says. As I stand there with slurry still oozing inside my trainers I think ‘Yes. Quite.’

It’s a long way back down through Much Dewchurch. I pass Henclose organics (no one in – apart from the goats rustling in the straw of their shed) and head across country down towards the Cottage of Content (a pub, sadly, not a gingerbread house.) As I pass a small house, I bump into its two residents. I think these are literally the first people I’ve randomly bumped into outside for almost the entire month. In surprise, I ask them if they’ll consent to me audio-recording our conversation which ranges from donkeys and bananas to local food in London.

Audio Track: Lower Knapp Green 2 (Denuded rural infrastructure & post-war farming)

Audio Track: Lower Knapp Green 1 (London, local food, donkeys & bananas)

Finally, I head towards Carey and get there as the light is falling. I’ve missed the shop, also closed (arghh). But I can hear a tractor working up in the fields so I head up the lane a little way. I pass a field of young Swiss chard, but no longer hear or see the source of the tractor noise. I look wistfully at it (the chard), realising I hadn’t eaten green leaf vegetables for some time and feeling an intense pang of hunger for chlorophyll tang of leaf. It didn’t even occur to me to pick some. Then as I turned to leave the field, I saw one uprooted chard plant lying muddy on the rutted tracks – fallen off the trailer or pulled up by an animal, I wasn’t sure. But it was going to waste. I picked it up and took it back with me, triumphant at my ‘roadkill’. [Curiously, just days later I discover that the Institute of Mechanical Engineers has published a landmark report Global Food: Waste Not Want Not – which opens with the shocking statement that ‘it is estimated that 30–50% (OR 1.2–2 BILLION TONNES) OF ALL FOOD PRODUCED ON THE PLANET IS LOST BEFORE REACHING A HUMAN STOMACH.’ I read this and remember that chard plant which has, ever since, become indelibly marked in my mind’s eye as a sad signifier for waste]

And then just a long walk back in the dark along the Hoarwithy road in headtorchlight, and my red bike light clipped onto the back of my hood.

 

Perygl Tân - Athelstan's Wood Athelstan's Wood 2 Athelstan's Wood Fungi in Athelstan's Wood Den in the Athelstan's Wood Inside the den Merrivale Farm Organic Dairy Merrivale Farm Merrivale Farm Barn Merrivale Farm Shop Merrivale Farm Shop 2 Merrivale Farm Shop 3 Merrivale Farm Shop 4 Water at Merrivale Farm The Plough Inn, Little Dewchurch Crop field at Little Dewchurch Henclose Organics, Little Dewchurch May Hill from Much Dewchurch Carey Cottage of Content Carey Organic, Whitethorn Farm Chard in sunset, Carey Organic Chard in sunset, Carey Organic

 

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