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A Day Out in the Countryside

Lenka Pagan
Last Saturday my son Lucas, our Czech friends and I took a day trip out
to the countryside to see Highdown Hill and Gardens in Goring-by-Sea in West Sussex. As you can see on the following images, the views from the hill are beautiful and include the sea and the South Downs National Park – it’s a beautiful place and I would highly recommend a visit.
I also wanted to share some simple tips for collecting and drying some of the herbs that I usually collect in Spring. There are many at this time of year, but I have only collected three kinds today –  Elderflowers, Nettles and Hawthorn.

An important note: when collecting herbs, choose the finest plants growing in big clumps, away from roads or sprayed fields. Herbs are best picked on a sunny morning, after the dew has dried. Also, use cotton bags/sacks as I do. You can also use paper bags or anything airy but never use plastic bags!

First, I collected elderflowers (sambucus nigra) as you can see in the picture below. I love collecting these white flowers as they have such a lovely smell and are used to make one of my favourite teas!

They are ready to harvest during May and June. In case you do not know what elderflowers are good for, here is a little information about them.

Elderflowers promote a peaceful sleep are excellent for colds, flu, coughs, fevers, helpful during influenza periods, for phlegm, for circulation problems and for catarrhal inflammations like hay fever, sinusitis and for sore eyes. They are also great daily spring tonic. Elderflowers contain lots of flavonoids and antioxidants such as vitamin C, A, B6, potassium and iron.

Elderflowers grow more like a shrub than a tree, producing a multi-stemmed trunk and are sometimes quite difficult to get to as they are surrounded by nettles as you can see in these three pictures below.

In the following picture my son Lucas is climbing on a tree – he loves climbing! Look at the lovely view behind the tree. The next few pictures were taken as we walked over the hill.

The next herb I collected was the Nettle (urtica dioica). This is another favourite herb of mine which can be harvested between May and September.

When I pick this stinging herb, I use either garden gloves or some cloth/clothes you have available at the time of picking – see below – I have used a folded cotton sack which I use for picking herbs.

Did you know that the nettle with its numerous trace elements, minerals, vitamins and enzymes, purifies the blood and relieves bronchial and asthmatic conditions, wheezing and catarrh, clearing the body of accumulated phlegm?

Nettle is effective for iron deficiency (anaemia) due to its high iron content, and is great for and blood loss. It can also be used as a hair rinse and to remove dandruff. The fresh leaves and shoot tips picked in the spring can be used in cooking for meals such as nettle dahl or nettle potato soup.

Lucas wondered which animals could make such big holes here. Are they rabbits, foxes or perhaps badgers? What do you think?

The third and last herb I collected was Hawthorn (crataegus monogyna). It is also known as May Tree or just Thorn. The Hawthorn flowers are white or pink with a strong smell and can be harvested along with the leaves from May to June. This herb is safe to be taken regularly as a pleasant tea for poor circulation, low and high blood pressure and any nervous conditions including stress and insomnia.

Highdown Gardens were the next and final stop of our trip. We had a little picnic on the grass surrounded by these beautiful flowers and trees. There are also two ponds (The Bamboo and The Cave Pond) where we saw some colourful fish.

Our children were running around the tree and shrub areas, playing hide and seek so intensively, and so well that we lost my boy! Only for a few minutes, thankfully 😉, but it is so easy to get lost there among those trees, bushes and lovely gardens that I would recommend picking up their leaflet by the entrance, which has a map of the gardens.

 So, what do you do with the herbs you collected?

As soon as you can, after you arrive home, dry your herbs either on a plain paper (not newspapers as the print is toxic) or a clean cotton sheet, ideally away from direct sun, in a warm dry airy place.

Keep a window open a little so that any little creatures hidden in the flowers can escape on their own (or maybe with a little help) and also to air out the scent which can be quite strong for the first couple of days. 😉 As you can see below I used a cotton sheet and placed it over a bed in my spare bedroom.

Try to turn your herbs a few times. The next picture was taken after 6 days when they were completely dry, ready to be stored. I store my herbs in the little cotton bags/sacks (for up to a year), which are specially hand made for herbs. For the first week or so I keep the bags around the house to refresh the rooms with their lovely smell before I store them in the kitchen cupboard with my other herbs and herbal teas.

So, I hope I have inspired you a little with our trip to countryside and wild herb picking to give it a try yourself or to maybe even visit Highdown Gardens.

If I have, let me know – I would love to hear from you, plus you may also be interested to learn about the 16 most common herbs in the UK, how to prepare them, plus some tips and advice about collecting and drying those herbs in my eBook: ‘The Healing Power of Herbs’. Along with lovely images of each herb, I also discuss the importance of good nutrition and much more.


“I have enjoyed reading The Healing Power of Herbs by Lenka Pagan. The eBook is written very clearly and simply and it’s very informative. I thought I knew quite a bit about the herbs but I have learned a lot of new tips which will help me with looking after my body. If you want to learn more about herbs this is a very good book to start with.” Dusana B., Housewife, UK



Lenka Pagan
Lenka supports women to live happier and healthier life. :-)

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