Kissing still in fashion in Ashdown Forest

common gorse shrubIn recent winter walks in Ashdown Forest the only blooms I really noticed were the yellow flowers of the common gorse.

gorse yellow bloomsI found it near the treeline by the Goat car park (named after a pub called the Goat which once stood here…a favourite of smugglers).

gorse ashdown forestAnd the evergreen gorse shrubs added a palette of yellow across the landscape when we went on our Winnie-the-Pooh adventure.

ashdown forest landscape with gorse

gorse bush and heath grass

I’m curious now to gather some gorse branches for kindling. The oil in them makes them very flammable. Even back in the 13th century locals were using them for fires. I found it quite fascinating (sorry, I do!) that a 1274 Ashdown Forest report said: “Customary tenants ought by custom to have heath, bracken and gorse to burn for their needs.”

path with gorse bushesSo far I’ve never tasted Gorse flower wine but apparently it’s a wonderful full-bodied country wine. Perhaps we’ll go on an expedition in March and April, the best time for picking, and try to make some. River Cottage has a recipe here. Must remember to wear gardening gloves to protect my hands from the spindly leaves and shoots.

gorse flowersThere’s another reason I want to go back on a warm spring day. Then, when the flowers flourish across the gorse bushes, the air is filled with the smell of their coconut-vanilla scented flowers.  Hmm, I wonder if I can also find a recipe for bath oil?

Wild birds and even invertebrates love these shrubs. Nectar when little else in flower. Refuge on harsh winter days.

bird on gorse bushAlthough gorse shrubs (ulex europaeus) are particularly dazzling from January to June, they can be in flower nearly all year round.  That’s a good thing. If you like kissing.

The famous fairy illustrator Cecily Mary Barker explains why in these extracts from  The Song of the Gorse Fairies:

“When gorse is out of blossom,”

(Its prickles bare of gold)

“Then kissing’s out of fashion,”

Said country-folk of old.


But this will never happen,

At every time of year

You’ll find one bit of blossom –

A kiss from someone dear!

ashdown forest view plus gorseSo now when I look at shrubs of gorse covered in yellow blooms I think of coconuts mingled with vanilla, glasses of wine, warm scented fires – and kissing.

25 thoughts on “Kissing still in fashion in Ashdown Forest”

  1. What an amazing plant! I saw some of this in one of our walks before. Now I know what they are! Interesting and I am so looking forward to you doing the oil! I love oils! I will try to spot some of this in spring and summer and maybe get some oil out of them! But I was thinking it takes a lot of blooms to have bits of oil. Ooppss sorry I am not making sense anymore. Thanks for sharing this info =) #pocolo

  2. Elizabeth - Little White Feathers

    I love the verse and it goes so well with the beauty of the photographs. I too shall always think of kissing when I see gorse now! Great post! x

  3. Just lovely. I must admit I initially wondered if you had been photo bombing some amorous couples forest snogging!
    I’ve never heard of gorse wine before, I must look out for it, or indeed make it! I have on the other hand picked up gorse branches for kindling, it burns like a demon and it’s in abundance in the New Forest. The kids love collecting it and I love how it looks a lot like driftwood too.
    Beautiful photos Kriss, I love how your photos always make me feel like I am there with you. Thanks for joining in again x

    1. Every time I researched gorse the kissing quote showed up in the article – including newspapers like the guardian and telegraph – finally sourced the quote to The Song of the Gorse Fairies!!
      If I make some gorse wine perhaps a tasting for HDYGG.

  4. So pretty, Ashdown Forest is great, haven’t been there in years though. We used to go there as we lived in Kent but we moved 5 years ago to be in Devon 🙂 The beaches are fab here.

  5. Gorgeous landscape photos. I never you could make wine out of gorse. In fact, it seems like most things can be made into wine…parsnips, marrows, dandelions!

  6. Beautiful photo’s. I love gorse-I associate it with many happy childhood hours spent playing on Arthur’s Seat where it grows in abundance. It makes for great little dens 🙂

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