London Permaculture festival

It has been nearly 7 months and we are preparing to head home to Australia.  I have been working through a list of last minute London must-dos, like lunch in Brixton and visiting the Chelsea Physic Garden.  Last weekend I took the opportunity to visit the London Permaculture festival, a day long event filled with friendly faces and informative sessions. We have been doing some reading about permaculture whilst we have been here, ironic I know considering the idea was born in our home land!   The festival was a nice first connection with the permaculture community and I came away really inspired!

The first talk I wandered into was by Matt Morton from Oxford, introducing his research into the concept of a city block as a potential farming space, where individual residents come together to share land and/or resources to provide food for the block community.  A great idea in theory, faced with lots of difficulties in practice and raising interesting ideas around the way we perceive our usable space, often growing ornamental gardens rather than food gardens.

The edible landscape idea was continued by Pam Warhurst from Todmorden, a small town in northern England, who has pioneered a concept called Incredible Edible Todmorden.  She and her ever growing team of volunteers have gradually filled their town with edible gardens, making use of public spaces that are otherwise bare or ornamental, and building a strong community around growing food and sharing knowledge.  They have encouraged schools, police and fire services, health workers, residents of housing estates and local business people to get involved in community gardens and make real food a priority.  There are now cities all around the world who have taken up the same goal and the town has become a popular tourist destination.

The point that Pam made at the end of sharing the evolution of this project with us is that it all began with a simple idea and a small action and, most importantly, it started a conversation.  That’s what I got from attending the festival, my first taste of being part of conversations around permaculture and food growing.  To be continued when we get home to Australia!

Primrose Hill herb walk

I spent this Saturday morning walking around the lovely Primrose Hill with herbalist Christopher Hedley and a group of keen herbal students and enthusiasts.  It rained, it was cold, we were cold, but it was fantastic!  Christopher led us through tips on identifying our medicinal plants (never taste until you are sure!) and told stories about the magic of the hill.

The view down Primrose Hill from under a Hawthorn tree

We ate leaves from Hawthorn and Linden trees (above dog height is always best).  We found and then discussed the use of fresh plants like Chickweed for itchy skin, Common Dock for Nettle stings, and Plantain for insect bites.

Chickweed - a fresh plant tincture is helpful on itchy skin conditions

I am so inspired!  It is wonderful to walk around a park in the middle of a big city like London and remember that there are traditional herbal medicines growing all around.  I have some freshly picked Cleavers ready in a pot for an overnight cold infusion which Christopher recommends to be drunk over a few days for a Springtime lymphatic cleanse.

Horsechestnut tree - the nuts can be used as a tonic for varicose veins

New adventure

The waiting and wondering was worth it! For the first time in my life I am living in a new city and experiencing a lightness that I never expected. It helps that my new home is a place that speaks the history of my family, my culture and my profession. London I am yours.. for a while at least.

Tea in Europe

Finally it feels like Spring!  The warm breeze lifts my spirits and eases the tension out of my winter bones.  It also  reminds me of wonderful summer days in Europe where we drove through alpine valleys, ate delicious local seafood in Italian lake towns and cheered as the Tour de France whizzed past!

I loved having the opportunity to explore European tea culture.  We visited tea houses wherever we found them and I thought I would share two of my favourites.

An inner London oasis, Postcard tea shop

The Postcard tea shop is in the middle of busy London, just around the corner from Soho.  You step into an oasis of calm, a quiet contrast to the bustle outside.  At times it was even a little too quiet, some music would have created more atmosphere, but I wasn’t there for my ears, I was there to taste!

Timothy d’Offay is extremely well traveled and knows pots about tea and the wonderful processes that bring it from tree to cup.  Pick his brain with your tricky tea questions or enjoy learning about his travels to bring the best tea from around the world back to London.

Plenty to taste, Postcard tea shop

The tea menu is extensive, with most of the tea sourced direct from small estates, selected for its quality or unique characteristics.  They also have a Tea Masters range which show off the skill and passion of experienced tea masters from China and Japan.  I was so excited tasting I forgot to write down the names of the tea, however you can’t really go wrong with this selection and the staff are on hand to guide your choice.

Send a postcard, Postcard tea shop

One of the coolest things about the Postcard tea shop is that you can choose a tea, taste it, take it home in an artistically unique canister AND send a packet to a friend as a postcard!  They have you covered, you simply pay a little extra for postage and they send it off for you.  I sent one home so it would welcome us on our return.

http://www.postcardteas.com/

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Prague has a vibrant tea culture.  People go to tea houses at all times of the day to sit and chat over pots of tea, rather than a cup of coffee.  There are tea houses dotted around the city, and we loved this one.

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