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THE WOOD TURNER Photo: Scots Pine in Courtown Woods

Updated: May 25, 2021

Last week I wrote about my post cocooning walk and my introduction to the elder flower and the many cordials and champagne and cakes you can make with the elderflowers.

From the responses I received I think we have quite a few connoisseurs of Elder flower cordial in our midst who generally do not recommend using citric acid. I believe the Happy Pear have a very nice recipe for the cordial. The berries are edible after cooking and can be used to make jam, jelly, chutney and Pontack Sauce. . I have learned so much in the past week and thanks to my online and tutors I met on my walks

On my travels this week I met many strollers like myself but one person in particular struck a chord with me.

He was rambling around with his children and we struck up a conversation. He had spent years in Canada around Toronto working at wood turning and sculpturing .He spoke lovingly about hard woods and soft woods and his love of the Irish woodlands and the lofty ‘ Scots Pine’. We stopped and admired one sample which was lording it over everything else on a back walk in Courtown woods. I learned that the Scots Pine is one of Irelands oldest trees being the first tree that emerged in Ireland after the Ice age and while it disappeared for a while about 5000 years ago it has remerged and can now be found in woods all over the country. The specimen we were looking at he reckoned was about 100 feet high and about 150 years old. The timber from these trees was often used as beams in churches and also as telegraph poles of old.

We walked on and our conversation drifted on to his work. He had travelled to County Tyrone for bog oak ,the previous week because he loved to work on that wood.

Every now and again the children would run up grasping a leaf and asking dad the name of this leaf or plant and they were duly informed of the name with a mild cautionary note to be careful because a lot of wildflower plants were poisonous.

The children then asked me if I knew their mammy was an artist and painted pictures for money. Mammy already has a well-honed young PR machine.

I was flabbergasted by my walking companions knowledge of trees. I had been taking some photos because I did not know the name of the plant and would check it out later .He inquired if I had any plant recognition apps on my phone which I didn’t but that problem was rectified when I got home and now I am a walking encyclopaedia on plant names like herb Robert, common hogweed, lesser burdock etc

Equally interesting they give you the history of plants and lo and behold I find out more about the elder. I always thought it was the eldest shrub in the forest, a sort of elder lemon, but no it has nothing to do with age. It originated from the word aeld from the Anglo saxon word meaning fire. This is because the hollow stems of the branches were used as bellows to blow air into fire. So now away with the firelighters and more elder branches .

The Scots used to collect elder and hang them on doors to drive away bad luck.

The Elder Wand of ‘Harry Potter’ is made of, yes you guessed it, elder.

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