October 15, 2019No Comments

Celebrating Winter Solstice with Storytelling and Fire

The levitating cooking pot!

On December 21st 2018, I held my first event as Enamelware Events (now 'Wild Folk') in Bristol. I collaborated with storyteller Pridie (The Wild of the Words), Jenny (Cotton and Canvas Parties) for the decor and styling and Matt at Feed Bristol for the food and venue hire. The photos were taken by Lionel (Steal The Day Photography)

Personally, this was the first time I had celebrated Winter Solstice. As I prepared for the event, I decided that anyone could celebrate it and that it was a great opportunity to take a moment of calm before the Christmas holidays began.

A time to be outside, gather with others, partaking in the simple activity of watching the sun go down and sitting round a warm fire.

A time to enjoy the darkness and what it can offer us.

English Heritage have a nice explanation of what exactly Winter Solstice is:

The earth rotates on a tilted axis. When this axis leans towards the sun, it’s summer in the northern hemisphere and winter in the south. This is reversed as the earth continues on its orbit until the axis becomes tilted away from the sun.During the winter solstice, the earth’s axis is tilted at its furthest point from the sun. This means that, for us in the northern hemisphere, the sun is at its lowest point in the sky. It’s also the shortest day of the year — and the longest night.

The roundhouse at Feed Bristol

Studying the passage of time was important to many ancient cultures. For the people of Stonehenge sunlight must have been crucial — it allowed them to see, it kept them warm, it helped their crops to grow. Winter might have been a time of fear as days grew shorter and colder. People must have longed for the return of light and warmth. It is believed that this yearly cycle is what inspired Neolithic people to construct Stonehenge — a monument aligned to the movements of the sun.

So back to our event! In the early afternoon, Pridie led us in a wonderfully magical and immersive time of hearing — and participating in — the story of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Steadfast Tin Soldier. There was fancy dress, things to make and lots to imagine and act out.

We kept warm with hot chocolate, mulled apple juice and snacks (the crisps went in a flash!) while the campfire was building.

We gathered around the fire to watch the sun set at 4pm, and were amazed at how it was still quite light when it did eventually set. That’s city life for you!

(It did get a bit darker than this though!)

After the storytelling, we savoured the dinner that Matt (resident chef) had cooked up. On the menu was a vegetable stew and dahl with sourdough bread and yoghurt on the side.

The vegetables used in the food were all grown on site at Feed Bristol, a community food-growing project in Stapleton, Bristol and part of Avon Wildlife Trust.

I can’t wait to announce news of our next events. For now, I will leave you with an excerpt from Margaret Atwood’s poem ‘Shapechangers in Winter’:

This is the solstice, the still point
of the sun, its cusp and midnight,
the year’s threshold
and unlocking, where the past
lets go of and becomes the future;
the place of caught breath, the door
of a vanished house left ajar.

All photography by Lionel, words by Hannah.

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November 2, 2018Comments are off for this post.

Riverside autumn foraging: canoeing and making jam

At the end of September, I took a canoe boat out at Wall Eden Farm  and we ended up foraging on the way back after spotting Canadian geese and other wildlife along the way. It was a pretty idyllic late summer Saturday!

As it was unplanned, we collected the wild berries in an empty crisp packet from our snack supplies. I got my phone out to ID the fruits (blackberries were fine obviously) and upon arriving home I was still unsure if I had gathered sloes or damsons. I finally had a reason to consult my Hedgerow book by John Wright. The fruit wasn't awful to eat raw and I couldn't find any thorns on the bush, so I am pretty sure it was a type of wild plum, which the book helped me confirm.

When we got home we made jam with the mixed berries, using a mix of agave nectar and honey in place of half the sugar in the recipe. It was pretty delicious! Next time, though, I would make sure I had a cloth or filter to remove the pips. Helpfully, the plum pips rise to the surface in the cooking process, but we didn't manage to remove all of them that way as it was taking too long (and it was midnight by that point!)

I felt really invigorated – the being outdoors, the learning, the making of something afterwards. I've been wanting to learn more about 'food for free' and what I can forage in the different months, and this was the perfect opportunity - even better that it was unplanned!

I would like to experience and learn more about what is available to forage each month. The Woodland Trust has a great foraging calendar on their website which is a good start. It really doesn't have to stop at autumn – there's something to forage every month!

As Enamelware Events, I am planning on creating some monthly events in and near Bristol that are affordable and family friendly, offering opportunities for people to come and learn and experiment with foraging. This would include learning how to prepare and cook with these ingredients and how to do it within the guidelines in the local area.

I will be contacting local suppliers and experts to be involved, so feel free to get in touch if this interests you – hello@enamelwareevents.co.uk

September 10, 2018Comments are off for this post.

Inspiration: Wild dining with Amanda Farnese Heath

Meet @amanda_farnese_heath – she creates, styles and photographs wild dining and cooking over fire experiences in woodlands, by lakes and under the stars in Scotland. Read more on the madmarchhare website, and see the other bits that Amanda gets up to here.