Face your fears this Halloween
Halloween features plenty of creepy creatures and plays on our fears and phobias, but could you come to love them instead?
Plenty of children jump at the chance to go bug hunting and if you join in you might start to share their fascination. Lift logs and old bark to find earwigs, woodlice and millipedes. Peek amongst wood piles for spiders, ants and beetles.
Still not convinced you want to get up close to creepy crawlies? You might not realise how essential they are to the balance of our natural world. Insects break down waste including dead animals and plants – imagine the mess if they didn’t exist! Bugs are also breakfast, lunch and dinner for many amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.
And of course insects are vital pollinators. Around 1500 species of insects pollinate the plants of the UK and it’s not just bees doing the hard work; hoverflies, wasps, beetles, moths and even bats are important pollinators. When the number of pollinators decline, there are serious implications for food production and that affects us all.
Like chocolate? Love bats!
Fortunately for us, bats pollinate over 500 different types of plant including some of our favourites, such as cocoa and banana! Wild about Gardens week takes place this month and the focus is on bats. Bat numbers have dropped in the last 50 years and having bats in your garden is a good sign of a healthy environment.
There are 17 species of bats found in Britain and they might be visiting your garden after dark. The most common include the common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, brown long-eared bat and noctule bat. During the day they’ll find a dark place to rest like a hollow tree or a split in the trunk.
“Eye of newt, and toe of frog, Wool of bat, and tongue of dog…”
We wouldn’t recommend using any of the ingredients favoured by Macbeth’s witches this Halloween. But Autumn’s bounty may inspire you to forage for wild food and get cooking. Blackberries are the easiest to find and the most popular wild food to gather. But also look out for sloes, crab apples, haws, sweet chestnuts, hazelnuts and more.
Feel inspired by traditional recipes to infuse your own sloe gin. It’s a simple process requiring sloes, gin, sugar and patience! Use a clean needle to prick the skin of the sloes and pile 450g of them in a large, sterilised jar. Pour in 225g of sugar and 1 litre of gin. Seal it up tightly, shake well and store in a cool, dark place for around two months. Remember to shake regularly. Finally, strain through a muslin into a sterile bottle, then enjoy!
Before you forage make sure you know what you are looking for. Many berries and nuts are delicious ingredients, but others can be poisonous. Often the two can look similar so only pick what you’re sure about. And remember it’s not just you who appreciates these natural delights; leave plenty for the wildlife too.
Louise Barrack, Communications Officer