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Ramps and Dryad’s Saddle

We took a walk in Middleton Woods this weekend and it was just covered in ramps and bluebells. I collected enough wild garlic for 5–6 meals, and then towards the end of the walk we came across a bunch of enormous mushrooms on a log with caps almost as big as my face. It’s interesting, we came across very few mushrooms elsewhere. Perhaps it’s been too dry?

Though I was prettttyyyyy confident they were Dryad’s Saddle mushrooms, I wasn’t 100% sure… I had a look online to see if it can be mistaken for anything else and it seemed not. I also ran it past some friends that tend to know about these sorts of things and got a thumbs up.

Here’s the forest and the haul. Lemon for scale!

Dryad’s Saddle mushrooms on a log in Middleton Woods

Wild garlic and Dryad’s Saddle mushrooms with a lemon for scale

The ramps are super easy to cook, pretty much like spinach. Just sauté them in a little oil or butter with a pinch of salt and maybe some lemon juice.

Dryad’s Saddle mushrooms are also known as Pheasant Back mushrooms due to the pattern on the cap that looks like a pheasant’s feathers. They can be tough when they’re older so should only be eaten when young. When you give the stem a gentle squeeze there should be a bit of give, very similar to a store-bought mushroom. If they’re any firmer than that, they’re probably be too tough to be pleasant or worth it. Apparently the older specimens can be good to make broth, but I haven’t tried this. It can be hard to tell young from old since big does not necessarily mean old, this article on foragerchef.com has some tips on spotting young Dryad’s Saddles.

The Dryad’s Saddle takes a bit of prep, but not much honestly. I laid the mushroom cap-down on a cutting board and used the edge of a spoon to scrape off the pores on the underside of the mushroom. Very satisfying, they come away really easily. Next, I flipped it over and peeled off the top layer, the “feathers” of the Pheasant’s Back. This can apparently get a bit tough when cooked. At that point I was just left with a very large, creamy interior.

You can cook it a lot of different ways, check out this article and the previously linked Forager Chef article for tons of suggestions. They have a mild scent of cucumber or watermelon, so Kieran’s suggestion of cooking them in a soup with coconut milk and turmeric sounds really great.

I ended up slicing them thin and evenly, then baking them with olive oil and a little salt. This turned them in to mushroom chips, they were almost bacon-y and very crisp! Dryad’s Saddle supposedly can get a little dry and tough when cooked this way, but I didn’t have that problem at all. Probably just has to do with the age of the mushroom. I don’t recommend attempting to stir fry Dryad’s Saddle unless you have a very decently sized wok. Mine released a lot of liquid when I attempted which made for some serious splatter, hence transferring it to the oven.

Look forward to getting back in the woods in a few days.

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Feet on the ground, head in the sky

A stone stile covered in moss in Addingham, West Yorkshire

I’ve been going on a few walks from the front door, no more than one a day as prescribed to maintain sanity. It’s confusing though…

The guidance says, “You can also go for a walk or exercise outdoors if you stay more than 2 metres from others”, so a walk on a quiet public footpath should be OK. Problem is that you can’t predict how many people might be on a path before you get out there, and there are a lot of stiles and latches you have to touch to get over or through fences.

But it’s not like Main Street is any better. You have to step in to the middle of the road in order to maintain distance since the pavements are so narrow, and there are 4–5 times as many people walking there at any one time than out on the countryside paths.

It’s tough to know what to do, particularly with the police doing things like shaming people via drone cameras. I get it, we absolutely have to avoid throngs of people descending on beaches and beauty spots. But, ugh. Staying 100% inside feels actively unhealthy. Just never feel like I’m doing the right thing.

A bridge over a stream in Addingham, West Yorkshire

I’m carrying hand sanitiser and use it after each time I have to touch some apparatus. I’m planning to carry antimicrobial wipes from now on to open / close gates and get through stiles. Maybe it’ll help others too? Who knows. I’ll also spend some time coming up with more bodyweight exercise routines that I can do from “home” or a random park. Definitely one of those times you long for a garden.

The photos above are from a walk along Marchup Beck (see walk 8, the shorter version) with Sam and the photos below are from walk towards Addingham Moorside (see walk 6, the shortest version) with Gemma in London. It was a walk-and-talk over the phone, 10/10 would recommend. I got *hopelessly* lost once or twice, but it’s pretty straightforward to get back as long as you know where the middle of town is and keep the moor at your back. The walk included some stretches of the Dales Highway and the Millenium Way, I probably just needed to pay better attention to the signs.

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Sharp and Rough

Sharp Haw and Rough Haw in West Yorkshire

Since we don’t have a permanent home at the moment (more on that), we’re living in Addingham for a month. This is Sharp Haw and Rough Haw at the southern edge of the Yorkshire Dales. The fields on either side of the path were occupied by male lapwings trying to outdo each other, and I think there was a snipe standing on top of a huge pile of manure.

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New neighbours

We were due to move out of London on the 31st, and then we were going to live in West Yorkshire with Sam’s family for two weeks before leaving for the US. Obviously, that plan was shot to pieces.

We were still planning to move out on time until late Wednesday night when we realised that a lockdown in London could easily mean being stuck with nowhere to go. At around 5am on Thursday, we woke up and started packing. Sam got one of the last vans at Enterprise and we Tetris-ed things in to it until about 7pm when it was filled to the brim. We said goodbye to our home for the last 4+ years, and then he drove north while I failed to stay awake in the passenger seat. We listened to a few episodes of Answer Me This and The Mythos Suite, ended up rolling in to our destination around 1am.

Meet our new neighbours.

Brown hens in a back gardens in West Yorkshire

We’ll be staying in a few AirBnBs until things calm down a little bit and it makes sense to move to the US. It’s pretty good so far. We have already worked remotely for so long, we don’t have to make any major adjustments there. And it’s a beautiful part of the world, should be able to do a lot of walking.

Part of me feels really guilty about leaving, particularly when I think about what happened with the lockdown exodus in Italy and after reading this Guardian article. We don’t want to contribute to any problems, but we couldn’t stay.

We decided on Yorkshire because it was pretty much our original plan, though we’ll probably be here longer than we had planned and will rarely see family. We’re trying to stay as distant as possible. Living in a state of flux.

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Ceramic cat by a young David Hockney

Life-size black and white ceramic cat by David Hockney

Ceramic Cat
David Hockney 1955

On loan from Jean and Paul Hockney.

This cat was given to David Hockney’s brother and sister-in-law as a wedding present in September 1955. It was one of approximately four cats made by the artist whilst a student at Bradford College of Art. After the model was produced the mould broke, making this sculpture unique as it was the only one with indentations. Subsequent versions were produced with a smooth finish and in different colours.

This life-size ceramic cat with stubby little legs is in one of the display cases in the ground floor of Salts Mill alongside many other pieces by David Hockney.