“Would you like any damsons?”
It wasn’t what I was expecting to hear as we walked through a water meadow at Streatley on a typical November day in August.
Our plan had been to do a circular walk from Goring, taking in part of the Chiltern Way and the Thames Path, as recommended by our wildflower book, but the grey drizzle was discouraging and my feet hurt. A re-think over coffee in The Chocolate Café and we decided to take things more slowly.
We strolled over the bridge towards Streatley, pausing to visit the church. The current church mainly dates from 1864, though the tower is fifteenth-century, but there has probably been a church on the site since Saxon times. The churchyard contains the remains of a Saxon warrior, perhaps one who fought with Alfred at the Battle of Ashdown in 871. His remains were found together with an iron spearhead and knife, bronze buckle and blood-stained tooth in 1932 by a local resident whilst working on the site of the old Bowling Green, and later re-interred in the churchyard. I’m sure Jerome K Jerome would have had a good story to tell about him, had the remains only been discovered fifty years earlier.
Following a sign from the church to the Thames Path we found ourselves in a water meadow where we had no difficulty in spotting the purple-loosestrife and common fleabane the book had told us to expect. We also saw some non-native but very pretty orange balsam.
As I watched a barge slowly make its way down the river, my husband drew my attention to a little fruit stand with an honesty box, intended to raise funds for the conservation of the area. Would I like any damsons? Of course I would. The only problem was that the fruit was a pound a bag and I didn’t have change for a five pound note. So that is how we ended up carrying two bags of damsons, two of pears and one of apples on our walk.
Returning, we decided to emulate the Three Men in a Boat and lunch at the Bull. I don’t know what J, Harris and George (to say nothing of Montmorency the dog) would have made of jalfrezi pie, but I enjoyed it.
That’s the thing about Slow Travel. You never know quite what to expect, but must take things (and damsons) as you find them. Now, where was that recipe for spiced damson chutney?