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The Floating Kitchen

On September 23rd, I embarked on a voyage down the river Trent on a Narrow Boat. The boat was skippered by Debs, an experienced woman of the river. We took with us eight guests for a twenty-four hour adventure, searching for wild food around the river. The afternoon was spent drifting down-river, with stops to pick crab apples, elderberries, comfrey leaves, rosehips, hawthorn berries, nettles and mustard leaf.

We stopped at Stoke Lock and cooked up a feast in the evening for fifteen guests. Despite my concerns that we wouldn’t have enough food, the experimental cooks aboard the floating kitchen conjured up enough to feed everyone. We sampled nettle and hazlenut tart with hawthorn chutney, wild cabbage stew, foraged salad, apple crumble, and lots of gorse flower wine that I’d made in the spring.

In the morning we returned slowly back up the river. Annwen Jones guided us in some medicine-making from the plants we’d foraged: We made comfrey ointment for joints and sprains, and elderberry syrup to ward off the flu.

The river is a different world. A slower paced, thoughtful, connected space. The river embodies the contradictions of the meeting of cities and nature: water that glitters despite its grime, pockets of wildness and abundance between industrial sites, an apple tree flourishing near to the dual carriageway that bridges the Trent.  It’s an edge, a hinterland – and traversing the river reveals the behinds of places, the bits you don’t normally see. The river is also a corridor: travelling by narrow boat is slow-motion escape as we slide out of the city. Making time to be here changes time, twenty-four hours becomes a week, we are out of the ordinary.

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