Foraging in April in the Scottish Lothians

Nature writing and folklore

by Scott

When April weeps, then May will chirp and sing,

for April showers make May flowers to spring.

Broom in flower
Broom in flower

Ah April, an Giblean, also known as May of the silly one, Céitein na h-òinsich. òinsich could mean silly one and cuckoo. It’s traditionally been a month of the strangest weather and odd beginnings from April fools day and this month is no exception.  We have travelled around the country, exploring different parts from sea-shore to ancient woods. I have also been visited from friends from the United States both old and new, so we’ve been really busy. Sadly with not much time to write.

But we managed to get out in our local areas for a few days which was amazing. April is the month of blooming, everything comes into its own and its stunning to see the trees budding and the cherry blossom coming into heavy flower. One tree I keep an eye out for this month is the blooming of the apple tree. It truly does turn it into the silver bough. The supposed key to the entering and leaving of the fairy realms. Rose bush leaves and Rowan leaves are also budding at this time of year and you can see how close they are as cousins (they are both members of the Rosaceae family) , the leaves looking almost identical. Almost all the tress in our area have started budding by the end of April except the Beech, the Oak and the Ash. Just as well as they have a habit of shading things out below them.

Apple blossom - the silver bough
Apple blossom – the silver bough

Elder leaves gathered on the last day of April are said to cure wounds (Collectanea, 1903) but then on this date the eve of Bealtainn (anglicised to Beltane) a lot of things are invested with excellent virtue. There is some truth in this myth as the use of Elder leaves isn’t only for repelling insects but also mixed with the right herbs could also be used as a form of oil of swallows (without the swallows that is!) reputed to heal many an ailment.

The Brambles, Raspberries, Currents and the Blackthorn are also starting to bud leaves, just as the Hawthorn is starting to bring forward its flowers.  Soon the smell of Hawthorn will pervade the walk we take. Some folks aren’t partial to the smell some folks love it. Why? It has a chemical in the perfume that’s the same smell released from rotting corpses and gives it a very strange connection to death. The Hawthorn is also a fairy tree and when it blooms Roodmas and Bealtainn is upon us signalling the start of Samhradh or Summer. It has many folk loric and folk magic connotations and connections in Scotland and other Gaelic counties. Personally, nothing beats lying underneath a Hawthorn tree in Bloom and allowing the mind to drift … venturing forth to who knows where.

Everything below the hedge is just growing so fast. The annuals winning the race but soon taken over by others, Jack in the Hedge or Garlic Mustard is now almost flowering and reaching its peak. Its mustard like seeds freely available and in abundance soon. Nettles are rising and all the spring greens are fighting for space. Chickweed is also in flower competing just below the now larger cleavers and sticky willy which dwarfed it last month. Dandelions bloom in profusion.  The bees are visiting their flowers along with the white dead nettle and its cousins often. Red admiral butterflies flit from perch to post, to flower to bud sunning their wings. It reminds me of the Charm we sung as children :

Le, la let, Ma Bonnie Pet

It’s sung to butterflies to make them alight. It works, I can attest to that :)

Flowering red currents
Flowering red currents

The pigeons are singing their cooing song in the trees and bushes. It’s a sound i recognise as home. Wood pigeons would always be singing outside my old house in a huge conifer tree (sadly recently cut down because of how big it became) but the pigeons still sing through the day reminding me of my child hood home. I also hear the rapid staccato tapping of Woodpeckers as they start to build their nest. I sadly havent heard the call of the cuckoo yet but there’s still time. I also by chance come across the roosting site of the crows, they have decided to take up residence on the tall trees very near the wee village by the sea-shore, it makes me happy to hear their cawing, it’s a welcome sound. I also have looked for these guys for months now!

The lambs are now also everywhere, bleating and jumping.  The cows are starting to calf  and little baby cows can be seen being nurtured by their mothers in the organic farms near us. It also means the mother cows will be more protective and its best to tread carefully through any fields with them both in.The boars have also had their babies and little gangs of them chase after their mother through the light green grasses. There are wild Boar up in the highlands of Scotland too which is a comforting thought.  The horses have also had their winter coats taken off and are being summered outside.

I think this is Purslane
Purslane ( I think)

April really is the time of month where everything starts to come into its own. It’s so nice to see the light green of leaves and grass and the spotting of flowers and blossom taking over from the pale and dark brown and grey of a Scottish winter landscape and then we hit Samradh, or summer as May begins.

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Kristen 1st May 2016 - 2:27 pm

Thank you very much for your sharing soul. I love your voice and heart, its kindred.

Cailleachs son 3rd May 2016 - 3:43 pm

Kristen, Mòran taing! Thank you so much for your kind words :)


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