Saturday, 18 September 2010

Eglinton Park

We took a drive along the West coast, our chosen destination was Saltcoats on the East coast of Scotland, but somewhere along the way we got distracted and saw a sign for Eglinton Country Park.
D was happy to play with the camera and me, I was happy to walk and explore. The amateur forager in me wanted see if there was any free wild food here to pick. Before we even got out of the car, we noted the number of people walking around with their dogs. In fact what surprised me was that there was a designated 'doggy loo' area. The park is listed as 'Friendly venue' for dogs by the Dog's Trust.

We looked at the noticeboard that informed us that between 2 - 4pm the countryside rangers were going to be opening the doors to the cottage and would be showcasing some hedgerow plants. I got a little bit excited and thought, maybe, just maybe they will have sloe berries here.
For those of you who have been reading my blog a while, will know that I've been on the hunt for sloe berries for a year. I was especially envious of Nic of Nip it in the Bud find last year. In fact my obsession was so bad, there were a number of nights when I found myself dreaming that I was picking sloe berries for a while. Why this sudden enthusiasm with sloes you may think? Well I blame my father-in-law for letting me taste some of his sloe gin two years ago and it was just so, so delicious. After learning that his friend had made it for him, I too just had to make my own.
On our walk, we passed Eglington Tournament Bridge.
If you click on the image, you'll be able to read 'Ye Maunna Tramp on the Scotch Thistle, Laddie'. This sculpture was commissioned for the Kelvingrove International Exhibition of 1888. The statue sat on the roof of a soap factory in Paisley until being moved to Irvine in 1971 when the factory was demolished. The statue was eventually moved to Eglinton Country Park, where vandals stole the heads. Something similar happened to the life sized sailors known as 'Cavorting Sailors' in Leith, Edinburgh, except some of them were stolen. Below Eglinton Castle surviving walls.
At one point, we passed a couple, perhaps in their mid 50s. At a glance I noted that they seemed to be foraging for chestnuts. I thought to myself I wonder if they know if there are any sloe berries around here. The eager bee in me approached them, first just saying 'hi', then asking directions as we were not familiar with the park and then, to the point 'do you know if there are any sloe berries around this park'. They were so lovely, and informed me that they came her often and unfortunately could not tell me of a spot where they were thriving, but there were plenty of elderberries. We thanked them and continued walking on.
Eglinton cattle. Funny they started walking towards us. Whilst D was going camera snappy, I observed a man in his late forties walking through the park with his active Guide dog puppy. As he approached me, he nodded 'afternoon'; I responded back 'Afternoon, have you been busy foraging' and the conversation evolved. He was really friendly: in that short while, we spoke about his Mrs making bramble jelly, him foraging at the park for the past few years, the Guide dog puppy under training and sloe berries. He said, the same as the other couple 'plenty of elderberries' but sloes. Nah. As he walked away with the dog merrily bouncing in all directions, he turned and called me over. He said 'I'm not too sure if they were sloe berries or damsons, but I did see something a little while ago that resembled sloes'. I listened very carefully to his directions and Thanked him. At this stage, I'd be happy with damsons too as I've never had them either. In the back of my head, I could remembered fellow blogger Kath of the Ordinary Cook encouraging me to try damsons as well.
As we approached this little corner, I saw some isolated purple berries hanging. Could it be, no, really - sloe berries. Not that there were that many there as the branches were pretty much stripped, but D still wouldn't let me collect many. I asserted, this is where that man said they were. Sadly he was not confident in me identifying these as sloe berries. So I said to him, 'these must be sloe berries, there are hardly any here, someones already picked the ones within reach. Listen, let me pick some, the countryside-rangers got that hedgerow plant identifying event on, I'll get confirmation from them'. We agreed.
Yes, hooray - it was confirmed that these berries were indeed sloe berries. The countryside ranger working in the cottage house had a vase full on display. Here you will also see Hawthorn, wild rose-hip, wild crab apples, Elderberries and Rowan Ash.
Whilst inside, we couldn't help have a closer look at the other kitchenalia.
Pretty happy with myself, it was time to head back home.
Oh one more thing, some of you may have seen these banners outside Christian places of worship. I just feel I have to share this. It warmed my little heart.


  1. hi, I don't want to be funny, but isn't that the west coast?

  2. isn't that great how foraging brings people together - I wish I could do it but am happy to have a bit of vicarious foraging and know the tradition continues

  3. Well done on getting those sloes! Although part of me wishes they were damsons so you could have tried one. It sounds like you had a wonderful day out.

  4. Ha thats really funny about the sloe fetish, I've been going through the same thing myself for a few months. I recently located two bushes but there were only a small handful of berries left, not enough to make sloe gin anyway. Then yesterday I said to my fella Phil as we were about to get back into the car, let me just look along this hedgerow maybe there are some along here. Hurrah! the first bush was a sloe bush full of berries and another two bushes up another. I was on a high all day I can tell you. A fellow blogger had a good tip she said don't wait till after the first frosts because no doubt others know where those bushes are, pick a little earlier and let your freezer act as the frost. This way the early bird gets the sloe. BTW I too have angonised whether what I had were sloes, the pictures on the net are not very clear. Will keep an eye on your blog to see your sloes in the gin jar;-)

  5. Wow what a beautiful side trip. What do the sloe berries taste like?

  6. good banner. I too would love to find some sloe berries with gin in mind. In the meantime I'll make do with the plain old G&T though!

  7. Sloe berries make Sloe gin! yes please! La Diva will have a sloe gin fizz!

    Rainbow chard: check. Cool pink coat: check. Thumb ring: check. Dark nail varnish: check. Yep, you've checked out. You are one cool chica!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  8. Oh, that sign warmed my heart a little too...thanks for posting it.

    So enjoyed the foraging day (photos and how you describe talking to the folks you met))), and am very pleased you found your sloes and now, you can identify them and keep your eyes open for seeing them locally. Damsons are much larger, me thinks))

  9. Thanks js.
    I honestly noticed i made the mistake before posting, but forgot to correct. Corrected now. But I'm pleased that i made the mistake, its when 'local' bloggers leave a comment on my blog alerting me to their presence in the Scotland blogger world. So Thank you. Its nice to make your acquaintance.

    I was honestly so delighted at how open these other foragers were, many are quite secretive about places. Soon be mushroom hunting season, now that will not be easy. I am only confident with two mushrooms: morello and chanterelle.

    Thanks Kath :D
    Yeah, I'm pretty chuffed. I should have enough for a small bottle!

    Maybe next year I'll find some damsons, seasons not over yet. So you just never know.

    Welcome and Thank you so, so much Captain Shagrat. So wonderful to make your acquaintance. I am so pleased to read that there is someone else in the blogworld with a sloe fetish. Good to learn you found some yesterday and its sounds like a good yeild, unlike my handcupful. I share your high on finding some though.

    I agree with your fellow bloggers tip. These bushes were all stripped and I am sure it was not just the birds.

    I agree. Photographs in books and the internet are nost always clear, and sometimes its just good to see it for real, the leaves andhow it looks on the inside. The sloes I picked should appear on the blog in a few days time. My mother would so not approve.

    Little Messy Missy.
    Sloeberries are not edible raw and quite astringent, but they are delicious as a fruity flavouring for gin or vodka.

    Thanks Louise.
    If I locate some sloe berries locally, i'll let you know. Promise.

    Thank you so much LaDivaCucina.
    Especially for making me smile :D
    and for repayng hte compliment.

    Thank you Gardeningbren.
    So pleased the bannern warmed your heart too.

    Its kinda hard striking a conversation with a complete stranger, but it felt good that it was received well :)

    Your right, damsons are a little larger. I know what to look out for sure now. I am so pleased.

  10. You are welcome! I just wanted to add what I have foraged recently here in Miami Beach: Tamarind pods (for Latin and Asian cooking) and banana leaves, which I just used to steam the fish in with Thai spices! The best thing I ever foraged were wild lemons in Australia, and I made the most divine meringue pie with them.....sigh...

    oh, and just because you are across the pond, that doesn't get you off the hook for my sloe gin fizz. Cheers!

  11. This has made me smile as I got really fixated on sloes last year too. I've never tried sloe gin but really wanted to try and make it, but couldn't find any sloes anywhere despite looking in several hedgerows. Was anticipating another year of disappointment this year- but was out picking blackberries last week and stumbled across loads of sloes too- hooray!

  12. LaDivaCucina.
    Your forage finds are so much more exotic sounding, especially the wild lemons.

    You may have to wait a good year for your sloe gin fizz, but hopefully it will an appearance on the blog in a glass for real for your virtual consumption over the net :D

    Been a while since I last heard from you.
    Good to hear that you stumbld across 'loads' unlike my small find, but a find at least.

  13. Hi you were in my neck of the woods - Eggy park really is a brilliant place!
    I'm in the three towns area!
    maz x

  14. Thank you for your comment Maz.
    It is so lovely to make your acquaintance. I note that Eglington Park was having a Fungi Foray today. I would have gone along, but house-cleaning calls today.


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