Herbal Barge News, July 2018
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Dear All, I hope you are enjoying this glorious summer. It has been so hot, all the plants on the Lea are weeks early. Have harvested all the midsummer herbs from my garden – the lemonbalm, the St. john's wort and the roses which keep coming. And just hoping not to have missed the meadowsweet, the golden rod, goat's rue, mallow, and mugwort from the marshes. Herbal medicine and the NHS In these days of celebrating seventy years of our wonderful NHS, I recently revisited an article (http://herbalbarge.co.uk/nhs.php) I wrote some fast flying past ten years ago for a pamphlet marking the sixty year anniversary. As a herbalist my relationship to our wonderful health service is complicated. I have so many reasons to be grateful to it; so many friends and family working hard wit...

Herbal Barge News, May 2017
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Dear All, So we have moved to past the moment in the year of May Day protests and Beltane fires. It can still be a little chilly in the mornings, but leaping out of bed on my boat to put the kettle on, no longer constitutes an act of bravery! If I light the burner lately, it is as much for gently infusing an oil or cider vinegar with plant material as it is for warmth. It has been a very dry spring, the earth is parched, but no doubt rain will come - and we have six weeks ahead of us where each evening, it will be lighter a little longer than it was yesterday. Hurray! At this time of year, in the past, I have written about the firmament of abundant medicinal plants in and around the tow path (see here) - cleavers, nettles, chickweed, hawthorn and the emerging elderflower. Th...

Herbal Barge News, December 2016
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Greetings from the River lea, on this very mild day in December. I am writing in haste, anticipating the seven hour journey to Kings Cross that I am just about to embark on. Strange how river time can change perspective. I need to be back in Tottenham for a meeting next week, and for a second thought I wouldn’t be able to make it due to being away – and then I remembered it would only be twenty minutes on the tube! This Midwinter waterway journey from Tottenham to Kings cross, traverses past Markfield park, site of the old Tottenham sewage works and pumping station, where the Old Victorian beam engine has been fully renovated; beyond Springfield park and the Marina; through Walthamstow marshes, where the recently re- introduced cattle echo times of ancient Lammas ...

Herbal Barge News, September 2016
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Dear All, So we are moving past a summer of swings and extremes into the days of Equinoxical balance. Seasonally speaking at any rate. I am hoping for a few more pleasant late September evenings because this weekend the Herbal Barge will be in Mile End for a Floating Cinema event. Expect outdoor film screenings, workshops and on-board films and discussions themed under the title ‘Swarming the Castle’ - celebrating feminist organising in London and beyond. For the full program of events click here. http://floatingcinema.info/events/2016/swarming-the-castle In counterpoint and balance to our customary health focussed activities, on this occasion, the Herbal Barge will be providing the bar. There will be herbal snuff, party mix in abundance, and interesting women themed herb...

Herbal Barge News, May 2016
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Herbal Barge News, May 2016 Greetings for Beltane and for May Day! The Herbal Barge was lifted out of the water last week, and is now raised four foot in the air on chocks in Springfield marina. There are many negatives to this situation - the cost, the work, the inconvenience - but the sublime advantage is that I can get up in the morning, walk a few feet and I am immediately in the middle of Walthamstow marshes at the most delicious time of year. The nettles are dark green and abundant growing among swathes of cleavers; the meadowsweet is just beginning to push through the damp soil; and the hawthorn in on the verge of bursting forth. There is plenty of time before the elder blooms, and several weeks more of hawthorn - but the cleavers and the nettles are comin...

Herbal Barge News, December 2015
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Herbal Barge News, December 2015 Dear All, As I write, this warm, windy Solstice morning, it occurs to me that this time last year I wrote about making medicine from kitchen herbs and spices. We looked at garlic and ginger, turmeric, star anise, cinnamon, cloves - so many familiar ingredients, with powerful anti-microbial and other medicinal properties. This year that idea has taken on a whole new significance. Like most of us, in the last months I have been distressed by the ongoing plight of people fleeing unspeakable daily realities in their homelands, towards the relative hope of Europe. I kept thinking that perhaps those of us experienced in festival first aid might be able to set up some kind of facility at Calais, but the complexities and logistics of how to do this ...

Herbal Barge News, October 2015
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Herbal Barge News, October 2015 Dear All, So we have past the Autumn Equinox, that moment in the year when darkness and daylight are in balance. There have been moments in recent days when the cold and rain damp have driven me to light my burner and shiver in anticipation of the winter ahead. And yet, each time this has happened the next day has been one of glorious tea-shirt sunshine; the Equinoxal sunlight and intense blue skies, showcasing the yellow, orange and red of marigolds, nasturtiums and hawthorn berries. Those hawthorn berries are especially glorious at the moment. The same trees that drooped heavily with May blossom earlier in the year, are now laden with berries, gently reminding that abundance occurs in perpetually repeating seasonal rhythms. I have been p...

Herbal Barge News, July 2015
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Herbal Barge News, July 2015 Dear All, This brief newsletter is a little out of kilter with the usual rhythm of Herbal Barge correspondence – but the St. John’s wort pictured above was taken at Hackney tree nursery yesterday, reminding us it is only just past Midsummer. And I wanted to write and inform folk about Herbal Barge events coming up. This Friday, the 10th of July we will be back at the site of the Olympic Floating Market at Mile End Park. The Herbal Barge will be open from midday on Friday and Saturday. On Friday evening I will be leading an edible and medicinal plant walk at 6.30, around the area. Herbal cocktails will be served before and after! The Herbal Barge is supporting a last funding push weekend for the Village Butty project (see here for details http:...

Herbal Barge News, March 2015
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Herbal Barge News, March 2015 – Spring Equinox Dear All, Greetings from chilly rainy Switzerland; I am here teaching for two weeks. We have had some beautiful sunny days – the view of the solar eclipse was great - but there is very little fresh spring plant growth yet, and more snow to come is promised. Meanwhile, weather in the Uk has been milder, if less dramatic and spring is gently underway. The feathered folk of my mooring, at least, with their noisy squabbling, preening and sudden hormone (I presume) driven bravery are keen to let everyone know that Spring is here! There is a very determined coute couple who are insisting on trying to build their nest in one of my tyre fenders. I am determined to stop them because last year I was unable to move the boat for weeks b...

Herbal Barge News, February 2015
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Herbal Barge News, February 2015 – Imbolc Dear All, So here we are, past midwinter, through January and already at Imbolc – the pagan festival of Brigit that marks the midway point between the shortest day and the vernal Equinox where night and day are equal. Imbolc is considered by some as the first day of Spring – and technically this may be true, but there was snow on the ground in Tottenham this morning; the Lea has frozen twice this week.; and this evening’s beautiful full moon lighting the clear skies, promises another very cold night. Even though the days are getting longer, these February days can be tough. Vitamin D supplies (stored in fat tissue if you are lucky enough to have plenty) will be running low – this can mean low mood and increased susceptibility to viral...

Herbal Barge News - December 2014 – Moving towards the winter Solstice
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Herbal Barge News, December 2014 – Moving towards the winter Solstice Dear All, Just when I was reflecting on the luminescently beautiful, orange calendula still flowering in my garden, wondering at the season – the solar powered charger for my laptop refused to work any more and I was reminded that we are indeed approaching midwinter. That time of year for feasting and hibernating, for dreaming and for plotting… Aside from the odd unseasonal marigold, forgeable medicinal plants will be thin on the ground in the next weeks - so look to your kitchen herbs and spices and consider using them in medicinal as well as culinary quantities – garlic, ginger, cinnamon, star anise, turmeric, thyme, rosemary, sage, cloves, chili, horseradish– your kitchen cupboard is a veritable medicine ...

Herbal Barge News - September 2014
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Herbal Barge News, September 2014 Dear All, The plant to catch my attention among all the autumnal berry abundance along the Lea this week, has been the fragrant Hops (humulous lupus), trailing and cascading in amongst the hedgerows. For some reason I have not been so aware of Hops in other years. It is a plant I have been slow to get to know, perhaps because it has been said Hops can induce melancholy. Although I have often wondered if the connection is spurious. Certainly an influential herbalist teacher had a bad experience in the nineteen eighties, but it does not seem good practice to extrapolate from just one case study. The association is peculiar to England and is not reflected in the folklore and traditional use of hops in the rest of Europe. The original association...

Herbal Barge News - August 2014
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Herbal Barge News, August 2014 Apparently it has been great year for berries and butterflies. Certainly travelling back to my mooring on the river Lea in the heart of Tottenham this week, there was a general sense of bounty and abundance amongst the flora and fauna. So many electric blue damsel flies darting across the water; brown furry dragonflies larger than bats conducting breath-taking individual and in formation flight displays; a carp so big that for a disorientating moment I thought it could only be a manatee foraging in the shallows as I passed; blackberries by the bucket load and the trees dripping with nearly ripe elderberries, all but ready for the harvesting. This time last year I wrote about the enclosure protests against the erosion of ‘Lammas rites’ to graze common...

Herbal Barge News - Summer Solstice 2014
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Dear All, As I write this glorious Summer Solstice day, the season feel’s to be much more deep midsummer that I would associate with just towards the end of June. The Elder has long gone, nettles are going to seed, hawthorne haws are ripening, the breath-taking walls of dog roses have gone over a little and even the St John’s wort is past it’s best. Lime flowers (tillia species) are exactly perfect for harvesting right now, though. Lime trees are so ubiquitous in urban settings – they line our streets and parks and used to be planted in swathes around old fashioned psychiatric hospitals for their assumed calming influence. The flowers are not so obvious to spot; you may be more familiar with ‘linden blossom’ as an ingredient in tea, than a useful herbal medicine in the canopy above...

Herbal Barge News - Beltane 2014
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Herbal Barge News, Beltane 2014 Greetings to all for Beltane and for Mayday! The fortuitous conflagration of International Workers day and Beltane goes back just 125 years to 1888. One hundred and fifty years before this in 1732, the calendar changed and ‘May Day’ was brought forward 13 days to our current May 1st. Up until this point it would have been usual for the May tree, or Hawthorne to be in full flower for Beltane. Unusually, due to the very early spring, on May 1st this year the hedgerows and riverbanks in the London boroughs of Haringey and Hackney have been dripping with blossom; absolutely ripe for harvesting this bank holiday weekend. Traditionally, Hawthorne (Crataegus species) has associations with sex; with the plague; and with faery magic. As with any plant...

Herbal Barge News - Spring Equinox 2014
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Herbal Barge News, Spring Equinox 2014 Dear All, So we have arrived at the Vernal Equinox - equal hours of light and dark. And from a plant perspective, Spring is very early. Along the Lea the spring cleaning herbs are up and in lush growth – nettles, chickweed, cleavers. There are white dead-nettles galore – some looking a little tatty and weary as if they haven’t quite had a chance to rest and regrow… predictably there is blackthorn blossom and the first green shoots of elder and hawthorn, and doc and Russian comfrey pushing assertively upwards. But a carpet of daisies already in full flower was surprising. The name daisy comes from the Saxon word ‘daeges-eage’ meaning ‘eye of the day’, but other common names for daisies include ‘briusewort’ and in Scotland ‘bairnwort’. ...

Herbal Barge News - Imbolc 2014
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Herbal Barge News - Imbolc 2014 Dear All, There is a little LED light just inside the door of the boat that goes from red to orange to green as an indication of how much charge there is in my leisure batteries that are topped up from the solar panel on the roof. It is not very accurate, but in the middle of winter I watch it obsessively. Yesterday just for a second, it glowed green for the first time in since October. Hurray! This means that, while I may not be profligate with my electricity just yet, from now on, I needn’t worry about the lack of it quite so much. The little green light is saying we have reached Imbolc, the midway point between the Winter Solstice (the shortest day of the year) and the Vernal Equinox (one of two days when there are equal amounts of daylight ...

Herbal Barge News - Winter Solstice 2013
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Herbal Barge News - Winter Solstice 2013 Dear All, After last night’s seemingly tropical thunder storms, I woke this morning to a very still river, still bathed in star light and the bright, just-past-full, moon. It had the definite feel of mid-winter. The lateness of the season, this year has continued right up until now – there is still greenery on my mooring – but my guess is, it is in its last moments and will not survive the cold, cleansing weeks ahead! This time of year offers opportunity for acknowledgement and evaluation – and so gives me a chance to say thank you to everyone who has visited the Herbal Barge or been involved in some way over the last years. There is no way to measure or audit the tapestry of input –the favours and skill swapping, the hard work that go...

Herbal Barge News, Samhain 2013
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Herbal Barge News Samhain 2013 Dear All, Many a skeleton and ghost and witch were abroad in Tottenham last Thursday night as I made my way to the tube, on route to the AGM of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists! Perhaps it was the the Halloween celebrations, or the imminent herbal gathering, but something led me to revisit the original text of the Maleous Maleforum, the ‘witch finder’s treaty’, on the way up to conference. The infamous document, written in 1456 was one of the first to benefit from a mass media technology, the printing press. It went in to over twenty print runs - no doubt selling, in part, on the basis of its prurient sexual content. Part two is especially devoted to tips on how to spot a witch. Apart from general carnal insatiability, more mundane...

Herbal Barge News, Autumn Equinox 2013
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Herbal Barge News Autumn Equinox 2013 Dear All, Moving on past the Autumn Equinox and there is still more than enough sun on the Herbal Barge solar panel to put plenty of charge in the batteries – but I do have to admit to lighting the burner already. Have been finding compensation for that end of summer feeling in a extra-ordinary bountiful berry harvest this year. The Elderberries (Sambucus nigra) in Tottenham have been glorious, offering a backdrop to and a focus for on-going conversations about the potential of herbal medicines and home remedies to contribute some threads in the tapestry of solutions needed to address the current crisis of bacterial anti-biotic resistance. We are used to thinking that when using single chemical compound (i.e pharmaceutical) anti-microbi...

Herbal Barge News, August 2013
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Herbal Barge News August 2013 On the 1st of August 1892, local folk invaded Leyton marshes to protest at the fences that had been erected by the East London Waterworks Company on what had traditionally been Lammas land – ie common land that could be used for and grazing cattle and horses between the months the 1st of August and the 21st of March. That particular protest was successful, and while Lammas rites for Leyton and Walthamstow marshes were gradually eroded, much of it still remains common land. The Herbal Barge has been moored on the Lea near Springfield Park for the last week and I have been visiting the marshes, most days and glorying in the abundance and diversity! So much to harvest, but this year my favourite has been the meadowsweet (filipendula ulmaria). This pla...

Herbal Barge News, June 2013
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Herbal Barge News June 2013 I think this may be the first time I have noticed that the St John’s wort (Hypericum perferatun) may not be flowering in time for Saint Juan – St. John’s Day (24 June). The Elderflower (Sambucus nigra) on the other hand is in perfect bloom – three weeks or so later than usual – but fragrant, creamy white flowers everywhere, and this Midsummer’s Eve (as I write), the River Lea smells of champagne! There are a plethora of Elderflower champagne recipes on the internet – I tend to go for making cordial nowadays, on account of too many previous exploding incidents. But both are delicious, although the sugar in each may detract from the therapeutic effects. If you are looking to harness the medicinal properties, think about drying (can be tricky due to flo...

Herbal Barge News, May 2013
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Herbal Barge News May 2013 According to the saying, ‘Ash before Oak expect a soak, Oak before Ash expect a splash’ - we are in for a rainy time to come, as Ash trees do seem to be unfurling their leaves first this year. Apparently Oak is more temperature sensitive, while Ash may respond more to light. Fortunately, the saying doesn’t have that good a track record for predicting the weather - but the fact that Ash has beaten Oak just a few times this century is a reflection of the very cold Spring we have been having. Now, as everything suddenly bursts into our attention, Dandelions (Taraxacum officionale) are my medicinal plant of the moment. Strictly speaking they are supposed to be harvested on St George’s day, but as everything is late, now is about the perfect time. And, as ...

Herbal Barge News, Spring Equinox 2013
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Herbal Barge News, Spring Equinox 2013 We passed the moment of the Spring Equinox at about lunch time Wednesday – but am guessing lots of us are not really feeling it! It seems to have been a very, very long winter. I am teaching in Switzerland this week and for the first time ever I had to cancel a guided plant walk due to no plants being visible through the snow cover! In the UK there is a little more evidence of re-emerging greenery – cleavers, chickweed (both spring cleaning and useful topical skin herbs)… and this is the best time to pick nettle tops to use like spinach. If you are at the end of your tether from missing the sun, consider topping up your vitamin D levels. If you prefer not to take supplements, oily fish, liver, eggs and mushrooms are all sources. And t...

Herbal Barge newsletter, Imbolc 2013
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Herbal Barge News, Imbolc 2013 So this Sunday the 3rd of February marks the festival of Bridgid – Imbolc – midway point between the Winter Solstice (the longest day of the year) and the Vernal Equinox (one of two days when there is equal amounts of daylight and darkness). Traditionaly rituals for Imbolc (superseded by ‘Candlemas’ in the Christian calendar) included the celebratory burning of many candles – the days are getting lighter and there is less need to carefully conserve energy and light sources – Hurray! If (like the Herbal Barge) you rely mainly on solar panels for your electricity this custom makes lots of sense! Herbal Barge out and about. The Herbal Barge will not be straying much further afield than Tottenham and Springfield in the next weeks. But both sites, e...

Herbal Barge newsletter, Heading towards the Winter Solstice December 2012
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Herbal Barge News, Heading towards the Winter Solstice December 2012 The Herbal Barge is has finally arrived in Islington to join the Floating Christmas Market. We're moored close to The Narrow Boat pub at 119 St. Peter’s Street - near the bridge - closest tube Angel Islington. Never again will I complain about the 341 bus – the journey took 8 and a half hours! We broke our way through ice at Tottenham, made our way along the Lea, arrived at the Hartford Cut to find the middle pound empty – literally a trickle of water inches deep and less than a foot across! We couldn’t turn back… so five locks worth of water later we sailed gingerly and slowly down the very middle and on our way - Victoria park, Broadway market, under Kingsland highroad, through the dark, sleet and wind and...

Herbal Barge newsletter, Samhain 2012
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Herbal Barge newsletter, Samhain 2012 Greetings at Samhain, the time of year marking the end of the harvesting season, the beginning of winter. In pastoral times, and in other parts, beyond Haringey - it is the moment when cattle are brought down from higher pastures. At the Herbal Barge, we are not too pre-occupied with moving livestock, but there is still plenty of seasonal winter preparation to be getting on with. Harvesting. It is the time for bringing the end of season fruits - and for digging up roots. Sloes and rosehips are traditionally picked after the first frost – but now is about the right time. And the River Lea is rich in both. Like elderberries, rosehips can be added to cider vinegar, honey or alcohol. After a couple of week’s maceration they will impart a ...

Herbal Barge newsletter, Autumn Equinox 2012
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Herbal Barge newsletter, Autumn Equinox 2012 Dear All, It is that time in late September when folk are thinking ‘where did the summer go?’ and here we are into the middle of Autumn already! It was a busy and eventful summer for the Herbal barge – away from the home mooring in Tottenham for over six weeks. We didn’t make it as far as Little Venice due to temporary steering problems resulting from an unexpected ledge or possibly a submerged metal safe that hit the rudder very hard, near Dalston. But we got as far as Islington. And what a beautiful place to stop, with a panoramic view across the basin! So close to the heart of London – and yet so much wildlife drama. Within sight of City Road, I saw a Jurassic-like cormorant fetch up a huge eel and gulp it down. And caught the...

Herbal Barge Newsletter, Summer 2012
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Herbal Barge News  Lammas Greetings from the Wonderful Floating Market in Mile End Park! Such a journey to get here - At the beginning of July, Stormvogel’s engine was still sitting on top of her back deck, so that welding work could get done on the engine mounting. After some heroic mechanics, we were up and running but having missed the 3rd of July deadline to be west of the Hertford Union before the locks were welded shut, we had to book special passage the long way round, past the Olympic stadium and via Lyme house basin. Permission to travel, eventually came for six am start on Monday the 16th. We set off down an eerily quiet river, on an epic journey past the newly developed Olympic site; past the beautiful and derelict industrial wharfs of Bow and Lyme house; into the lu...

Herbal Barge Newsletter, Summer Solstice 2012
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Herbal Barge news Wishing Everyone a Merry if inclement Summer Solstice! I know it feels as if summer is still to come – and surely it is – but the plants at least are remaining seasonal… I cycled passed welcome clumps of Hypericum on the towpath yesterday – fully on schedule , just about to burst into beautiful yellow flower exactly in time for the 23rd of June -St John’s day! St. John’s wort - Hypericum perferatum Such a beautiful plant of our time – grows freely by the wayside; packs an evidence base in relation to depression – and yet probably works in a myriad of un-investigated ways that that reflect the complexity of herbal medicine. If you don’t already have some growing in your garden, introduce it. And if you are lucky enough to have some growing already, h...

Herbal Barge Newsletter, Beltane & Mayday 2012
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Greetings for Beltane and Mayday! What a rainy time! And it seems we are not to expect anything very different ‘till after the full moon on Sunday. Apparently the huge amounts of water will not make a big difference to the drought status here in the Southeast – but the plants, at least are loving it! I haven’t seen such healthy abundant nettle growth in years – still lush and green and waiting to be picked! And make the most of the cleavers (Gallium aparine) which is at it’s peak now. This is the beautiful delicate, yet persistent and sturdy plant, also known as goose grass and sticky willy – if you don’t already love it as a spring tonic/lymphatic cleanser, you will know by the way it is beginning to take over your garden. Think ‘harvesting not weeding’, and help yourself to a...

Herbal Barge Newsletter, Spring Equinox 2012
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Herbal Barge Newsletter, Spring Equinox, 2012 Dear All, I hope you have all been enjoying the beautiful Vernal Equinox weather this week – and the signs of spring bursting out all around us! It seems hard to imagine that just a few weeks ago Stormvogel was trapped, surrounded by ice, as the River Lea above Tottenham Lock was frozen solid! Nettles I have been teaching in the Swiss alps this week, where the snow is still thick on the mountain peaks, but violets and primroses, nettles and bedstraws are emerging on the lower slopes. I organised a field trip to the local market, and was excited to buy some choice green nettle tops to go with my mix of wild mushrooms. I showed them to one of my students who said incredulously “you paid money for them?”. He had a point. Iron and ...

Herbal Barge Newsletter 2
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Herbal Barge News  Welcome to the second Herbal Barge mailing Winter Tonics We seem to be missing out on any cold snap so far this winter – but if you are still suffering from seasonal snuffles – or just generally feeling those winter blues – I would recommend lying in a steaming Hypericum infused bath, all the while sipping delicious anti-viral elderberry tincture made from berries harvested from Tottenham marshes! Both available from the Herbal Barge apothecary – as well as other flu remedies, cough mixtures, chest rubs, bath salts and herbal snuff for all eventualities! Not to mention raw ingredients for making your own kitchen medicines. Feasting and Fasting January can be a time of year associated with thoughts of diets, perhaps of fasts and detox – certainly many ...

Herbal Barge Newsletter 1
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Herbal Barge News  Welcome to the very first mailing from the Herbal Barge website!   Stormvogel enjoyed an eventful launch this summer with community events, at Markfield Park and Robin Hood gardens; the Richard Maybe walks with the Floating Cinema; the Pirate regatta – and finally settling down to a little regular spot out side the café at Springfield. I was away teaching in Switzerland for several weeks during September and October so while Stormvogel was still open for one to one consultations, the Herbal Barge Apothecary rested a little – and then took a little longer getting back into the swing of things than planned. Apologies to those of you who hoped to see us more regularly.   The good news is, I did pick lots of herbs, high up in the Alps near Gruyere. We have mad...

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