Mention camping to me and I usually jump up and down with excitement, eager to share in the joys of outdoor living. However, having just returned from a wild weekend camping in the Yorkshire Dales there were times when, I have to admit, I had serious doubts as to whether this could actually be described as ‘fun’. Lying on a half-deflated mattress listening to the wind barrelling down the valley, bracing myself for the moment when it would slam into the tent, I found myself questioning my sanity.
But then, when the sun came up on a beautifully still morning, reflecting the glow of the buttercups that flourish in the meadows around us, I realised that all is well in the world.
Malham cove is breathtakingly beautiful, the journey to it even more so. Years ago water from the nearby tarned poured over the rocks, eroding the cove into it’s curved shape. Nowadays water seeps down through the fissures of the rocks forming a stream that flows from the bottom of the cove. This clear water stream, sparkling in the sun, glitters and tinkles its way through the fields and into the nearby village. I can’t help but dip my fingers and toes into its icy, clear water, so refreshing and cool. The water so creative in its journey, twisting and winding, babbling and laughing. This is life.
Returning to the village I enjoy a rare moment of solitude, a welcome chance to indulge in a thoughtful ramble. A moss covered sign urges me to turn off the road and follow a shady path, fringed with lacy ferns, back to the village. As I round a corner the air is filled with the sweet and nostalgic smell of…aniseed? Yes, such an unmistakeable aroma, as if the door of the sweet shop has been left open, but this is no manufactured fragrance, this is the captivating perfume of one of natures most aptly named herbs, Sweet Cicely.
This herb is one of natures natural sweeteners and tastes delicious when added to rhubarb crumble and apple pies. Simple shred a few leaves and finely chopped stalks into the fruitbase before topping with the crumble or pie crust and bake as usual.
Sweet cicely can often be found growing, in vast quantities, along hedgerows, riverbanks and woodland edges. It has pretty filigree leaves and produces white flowers in May – June. Left to grow wild it is a prolific self seeder. Attempt to cultivate it vary wildly, I cannot get it to flourish in my allotment although one plant in my front garden does well every year. My friend Adrian can’t get rid of it fast enough. Yet that’s the beauty of gardening, we think for a brief moment we have the upper hand, then nature goes galloping off without us, laughing as she goes.
Sweet cicely Myrrhis odorata