The pictures in this blog tell such a small fraction of what I learnt staying at Abbotsbury. It was the most abundant and nurturing garden, full of herbs I had never heard of before, and all with properties that are healing in so many ways.
The first day was extremely frosty and you could barely see the chapel on the hill. By the afternoon the sun was shining and it was glorious to spend a few hours working the soil after a tour of the garden.
The garden began at the back door; in the courtyard stood a mighty fig tree, lopsided and growing out of a large broken china pot. The fig was surrounded by a messy area of grass and herbs, leading to a walled corridor with herbs either side, and then on into the lawned garden. We went through the names of each herb and their many healing properties; every morning my hosts picked a variety of herbs to make their morning brew, always including the nettle. Some of the herbs included Penny Royal which is a rare mint, good for anxiety, menstruation, bowel disorders, urination and much more. There were other types of mint, primrose, saffron (!), dill and arnica to name just a few.
Lots of Dill
The garden was also full of vegetable beds, with plenty of baby leeks, cauliflower and sprouts and even hot chilli, which we harvested. Parsley and coriander beds were also in abundance here, and I spent quite some time preparing the beds for sowing seeds from March onwards. The views from here were wonderful, looking up to Abbotsbury Chapel on the hill, with the sea glinting in the distance. A swim each morning was the cherry on the cake!
Half the beds were covered in tarpaulin, protecting the soil from weeds and helping to keep the carbon in to make the soil humus and nutrient rich. We removed the covers and started pulling up old roots and weeds. All for the compost! The chickens are also wonderful company and enjoyed helping take the small weeds out with me.
My hosts were medicinal herbalists and naturalists; they grew and ate absolutely everything in the garden. The concoctions at breakfast were very interesting… Coconut oil, maca, ashwaganda, turmeric, cacao, chia seeds and much more, all mixed in a mug and soaked overnight. It looked like a chocolate mousse and was delicious! I didn’t have a drop of caffeine while I was there because of all the wonderful jars of dried and fresh herbs to choose from… and I felt amazing!
On the first evening, we had a very spicy cauliflower curry with homemade bread. Delicious, with nostrils streaming and great for fending off any viruses... Their top tips were to eat lots of chilli, garlic and herbs.
One of my afternoon jobs was peeling the runner beans that had been dried out from the summer. The beans from the pods are perfect for making baked beans. After a few hours of chatting, learning even more about herbs (because there is just so much to learn), we soaked the beans over-night and Andrew made the most delicious baked bean stew using organic canned tomatoes and organic sausages from the local farm. We ate the stew with more freshly made bread, a lot of extra virgin olive oil and lashings of chopped parsley from the garden.
The bean stew with leftover cauliflower cheese and lots of parsley!
On my final morning after a stormy swim in the sea on Chesil Beach, I ran back up in time to get some weeding done before breakfast. My project was to weed the bed (left hand photo below) into a lovely cleared bed (photo on the right). Clearing the beds of weeds was my main job in the garden. In January, it’s more about tidying and preparing, ready for harvesting in late Feb/March.
I learnt some amazing health tricks which are all saved in a file for future reference.
One I’d like to share is The Garlic on the Feet remedy:
This works really well and was a particular treatment for TB (tuberculosis) patients. It has been used very successfully for lots of ailments, including fever, high temperature... and even toothache.
Ingredients: Vaseline, olive oil, garlic, old socks, plastic bag or tape to cover feet
Get ready for bed! Peel and finely chop one large clove (or 2 small cloves) & mix with a little Vaseline. Put olive oil on the bottom of your feet first, making sure you don’t put it where you’re going to stick the plaster. Carefully put the Vaseline and garlic mix on your feet & wrap a plastic bag around each foot. Either bandage each one or wear an old pair of socks to keep the bags in place; alternatively you can make a big muslin plaster and tape it on with masking tape.
The garlic will be absorbed by your body while you sleep. The bedroom may smell of garlic in the morning, but at least you will get better more quickly!