We packed our rucksack with plastic tubs and everyone carried a bag, box or container of some kind. We were off to the Middlesex Filter Beds to harvest elderberries, blackberries and goldenrod for our Winter Tonic. Winter Tonic is a liquid that you drink daily during the winter period to prevent colds and ward off sickness bugs.
It was a lovely summers day as we came to our first elder tree, a few bunches of shrivelled and green berries hung dejectedly at the top. We didn’t have much luck with the blackberries either. The only ones were mouldy or unripe. The wild fruits are scarce this year, but then we had some amazing crops last year. It makes my mouth water even to think about them. Victoria plums, juicy apples, delicious berries…….. Oh don’t!
As we continued to search the nature reserve, we found many more elder trees. Most of which bared a small amount of ripe purple berries. The bramble bushes remained pretty fruitless, though. The one thing we found tons of was goldenrod.
As were rooting around in one particularly bare blackberry bush, Irys spotted the tall, gangly, green stems and the bright yellow flowers of some goldenrod. We gathered some of the ‘rods’ for our tonic.
We managed to scrape together just enough berries to make our Winter Tonic and we headed back to Loon to start the ‘making’ process.
Whilst the others did that, I took my knife up to a nearby hedge to finish the ‘harvesting’ process. I met Dad who was on his way back from town and explained my mission to him. He showed me how to cut some strips of inner cherry bark. He said that I shouldn’t cut a ring of bark or else it’ll kill the tree.
I gave the strips to Mum and she added them to our potion.
In the morning mum said we were going to make our winter tonic, so we did. We packed a rucksack full of tubs and set off to the Filter Beds to get our blackberries and elderberries.
Whilst we were doing so we saw a dog, it was a Briard, a french sheepdog. It was blonde and it reminded me of Minstral.
The dog was called Maddy. She tried to lick me, it was the best part of my day, (other than swimming). You can also get a fully black Briard. Maddy was in between a large dog and a medium dog.
Whilst we were picking berries me and mum read a sign about how the filter beds worked and the reason they were there.
In 1849 14,000 people died from cholera in East London. So in 1850 the filter beds were made to filter water from the River Lea so that North East London could drink clean water.
Water was filtered through sand and gravel.
The beds were not filtering water all at the same time. It filtered 4 inches of water an hour.
It is now a nature reserve.