Spring Flowers at Herstmonceux

Last week-end we re-visited Herstmonceux to see how the plants were getting on now Spring is really here. Would the flowers surprise us? Judge for yourself in this video.



Spring Herb Walk at Old Heathfield, East Sussex

An early spring walk near Old Heathfield, East Sussex. The day was beautiful, a little cold and windy (as you will be able to hear) but so exquisite. Nature is breath taking in its beauty and I hope you can get a little of this in my video.

Spring Plants Revisited

Just the video now and I will write up notes and upload shortly. I’ve been a bit busy recently due to my daughters wedding and a play I’m in etc etc

Autumn Herb Walk around Herstmonceux Castle and Observatory

Hi Everyone, I had been complaining for ages that we had not seen any Oak or Horsechestnut trees in East Sussex. So off we went on a beautiful autumn morning to the grounds around Herstmonceux Castle and Observatory to some woods to see what we could find.

There is a brilliant Science centre on the old observatory site. The observatory was moved down from Greenwich when the lights from London got too much for the night sky and then the lights in east Sussex got too much from modern developments, so the observatory was moved and was eventually converted into a science centre which I think is way better than the one in London.There is still a working telescope there which you can look through on astronomy open nights.

Anyway to get back to the trees. My Husband, Mike, reminded me that most of the trees in the south of England were cut down for boat building. On top of that East Sussex was a smelting and brick making area and trees were cut down for the iron and brick kilns. That is the reason much of Ashdown forest is not actually forest but heath land.

We found Sweet Chestnuts, lots of Oaks with acorns and two large Horsechestnut trees at the end of the walk.

Acorns at Herstmonceux

Although I wasn’t looking for anything else we also saw Chickweed, Chicory and Beech trees. There are write ups on Chickweed, Chicory, Oak and Horsechestnut in the herb section.

The sweet chestnuts and beech nuts are a good food source but we did not have time to collect them. Actually I was surprised that the sweet chestnuts had grown to a reasonable size because we have had very little rain this summer and the beech nuts were yummy. I’m happy now I have seen Oaks and Horsechestnuts in East Sussex!

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist/Herbal Health Information

Marshmallow Herb Walk Along The Cuckmere River

We often walk along the Cuckmere River, in East Sussex as it is one of the areas we can take Henry, our Red Setter, without cattle being around, although there are sometimes cows in the fields and we may have to do a bit of a detour, as cows seem to chase Henry and scare us. This is a video we made of that walk and of the rare Marshmallow plants that we found growing there. I hope you find it interesting.


Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist

Beachy Head Herb Walk July 2011

Herbal health information re. Beachy Head herb walk.

What a glorious day it was when we went on this walk. Apart from unseasonal hot weather in April this year, we have had very few sunshiny days but I actually took my cardigan off for some of this walk!!

We started at the end/start of the South Downs way (depending on which way you are walking) straight up the hill which leads to Beachy Head.

The Downs are now managed using grazing cattle to crop the pasture, which are moved around, leaving behind a nice load of manure, resulting in spectacular displays of wild flowers, visited by many species of butterflies and birds.

I could not stop and show you all the plants on this walk as it would have taken a good few days and I think my poor little computer would have a nervous break down with all the footage.

So I am literally going to give you a list of all the plants we saw some of which I talk about on the video

Dyer’s Weld

Lots of Hawthorn, Elder and sessile oak. trees


Red clover

Ladies’ bedstraw



Many different varieties of Vetch (pea family)

Rosebay willow herb















And I am sure I have missed quite a lot.

Red clover, Burdock, Agrimony, Eyebright and Thyme will be in the Herbs and Health section and some already have their own little write up in there.

There were strangely few birds around on that day but there are usually skylarks singing and we have occasionally seen a Peregrine falcon.

There were lots of butterflies which I think were small blues and the meadow brown, but I am not a butterfly expert so I could have just made those names up!

I walk up the downs at least once a week with Henry the dog and every time do a little skip for joy at the fresh air, the scenery and the wildlife.

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist

Herb Walk Around a Shingle Beach July 2011

We live in a newly developed area, called Sovereign Harbour, three miles outside Eastbourne in East Sussex. The area was a shingle beach known as The Crumbles and was one of very few shingle habitats left in the U.K.  I have met many people who remember The Crumbles as they were and describe to me a wild area with different plants and animals inhabiting it.

There are still five sites within the area available for development, which are as yet, un-built on, due to harbour residents campaign to prevent over-development of the land, but which will be built on in the future.

Lucky for us, these areas still have an interesting variety of plants growing on them and also make good dog walking areas. The main species of birds I have seen, apart form the gulls, are linnets, greenfinches, sparrows, blackbirds and starlings. Lots of rabbits and foxes and some hedgehogs which, sadly, I only know about when they get squished on the road

We are also surrounded by marshy areas, Down land and Weald, resulting in several distinct habitats within a few miles from our house.

I was particularly interested to see three plants growing on the shingle which look very similar but which it would be very dangerous to muddle up.

Ragwort grows on most waste ground. It has poisonous properties and will kill a horse if it eats it.

St. John’s Wort is a nervous system supporting and repairing herb with anti depressant and liver stimulating properties. St. John’s Wort can be photosensitising both taken internally and applied externally as an oil, so if you are taking St. John’s wort, care needs to be taken in bright sunlight.

Tansy puts on a fantastic show and is often cultivated in herbaceous borders for its bright yellow flat head flowers. It is used medicinally in very small amounts to tone the female reproductive system and to kill thread worm (don’t self medicate with tansy, you need to know exact doses and it can cause abortion)

Evening primrose:- the oil from the seed is high in Omega 6 and is said to help with PMT. I personally am not an evening primrose oil fan or advocate but the plant is very pretty.

The other plants we saw on this herb walk were

Centaury, astringent and toning for all mucous membranes.

Tormentil , astringent and toning for all mucous membranes

Yellow dock, digestive system and liver stimulant.

Goat’s rue, reduces blood sugar (don’t self medicate)

St. John’s wort, Centaury, Tormentil and Yellow dock will have their own write up in the Herbs and health section

There are many other plants growing on the shingle, not the least of which is a beautiful Bee orchid which grows in the spring and I have to confess I hope that the planning permission battles will continue for some time.


Linda Bosotck

Medical Herbalist

Herbs and Dog Walking on the Beach

Around about 9 o’clock every week day morning, the dog and I walk across the road to the beach. He is of course, only interested in all the other doggy smells and trots around doing his own thing, following, but completely ignoring me. He is not the kind of dog who likes to chase after balls or stones or run around excitedly with other dogs, NO, smells are his thing. That’s ok though because I can peacefully think my morning thoughts and have a look at what is going around me.

Usually at this time of year the beach, which is a shingle beach by the way, is a mass of colour with so many different plants it is hard to separate them. But this year we have had very little rain in April and May and a friend asked me if the beach had been sprayed with weed killer the plants are so sparse!

What we have got is spread out and fairly scrawny, but for whatever reason there is a bit of a Poppy Fest going on down there with:-

Opium poppies

Yellow Horned poppies

Field poppies

They are all competing to put on the best show and reminding me of the flower fairies.

Opium poppies

Well you may think that Afghanistan has the monopoly on these but they grow very well in England. Before the advent of modern painkillers the opium poppy was the best herbal pain relief as it contains Morphine alkaloids and codeine. The resin from the seed head is collected and dried and used medicinally. Sadly both morphine and codeine are addictive so herbalists are no longer allowed to use the plant medicinally.

Opium Poppies on the Beach

Morphine sits on the same nerve ending receptors as our own natural pain killers called Endorphins and block the pain sensation being transmitted along the nerve pathways.

Never mind, even though we are not allowed to use them medicinally, we can look at them and that is a real feast for the eyes. There are several different colours on the beach varying from a pale mauve to a deep red in all shapes and sizes.

Yellow Horned poppies

These are gorgeous, with bright yellow open flowers and long spiky seed heads which look like horns, hence the name!

To be honest I don’t know if they have ever had a medicinal use but certainly they are not used by herbalists now.

Yellow Horned Poppies

Field poppies

Not so many of these as of the other two and mostly in the hedgerow in the track leading from the beach to the campsite.

It takes your breath away when you look at a plant as perfect and beautiful as the field poppy. A bit like looking at your new born baby and being amazed that all those little fingers and toes are so small and so perfect.

Field Poppies on the Beach

They are a fantastic deep red in colour with a black centre.

Here at last is a plant we can use medicinally. It has calming properties and I have picked the flowers in the past and made syrup with them.

To make the syrup, pick the poppy flowers and layer them in a clean jam jar with sugar. As they compress down, keep topping the jar up.

Put the lid on the jar and leave it in the sun or a warm place for a bout two weeks until the sugar has melted and turned red.

Strain this syrup into another clean jam jar seal it and use it as needed.

A teaspoonful just before bed will help aid a natural relaxed sleep or it can also be used to ease a tickly cough.

The poppy I use frequently in my clinic is the Californian poppy, which has hypnotic and sedative properties as well as being a nerve relaxant. I put it into my mixes for patients suffering from Insomnia to help them relax into a natural sleep.

When you watch the Video, apart from the poppies, take a look at the Martello tower. The Martello towers were built all along the southern coast during the Napoleonic wars as a defence to attack from the sea. They are spaced out at about 500 yard intervals, the next one along towards Hastings being converted to a house. The one on our beach is occupied by the pigeons and was scarily undermined by the terrible autumn storms last year which washed away about 20-30 feet of beach. A couple of years ago an autumn storm washed away another part of the beach and exposed a series of stakes sticking up from the beach in a grid pattern which we were told were also Napoleonic beach defences. Luckily I had my camera with me that day so got a good record of them before the shingle Lorries came and built the beach up again.

As usual there is a separate poppy article in the Herbs and Health section and please do  join me on my next herb walk.


Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist

Herb Walk Around Pevensey Castle, May 2011

Herbs and History

I may have mentioned before, that the wind always blows by the seaside.

Well the day we went to do our herb walk at Pevensey Castle, just outside Eastbourne, the wind was very definitely blowing which made the sound recorded on the video come out like a “hounds of the Baskervilles” take.

We went to look at the Pellitory, which grows on the walls of the castle and the lime trees growing in Westham churchyard adjacent to the castle, in the next village along.

Pellitory climbing castle wall

Pevensey Castle was originally built by the Romans and the Roman walls are pretty much in tact all the way around. It was in the bay a short distance from the Roman Castle, (not Hastings) that the Normans landed in 1066 and built the first Norman castle inside the Roman walls, using the walls as part of the castle construction. Next door to the castle, in the village of Westham, is a church reputed to be the first ever church built by the Normans.
We are always astounded that the site is not constantly overrun by tourists as it is of such historical significance, but it seems to be a bit of a secret tourist attraction.
Many plants grow on the Roman walls which are constructed from flint, with tile layers interspersed, I presume to act as a damp proof course.
The plants I have seen at various times on the walls include, wallflowers, plantain, grasses, stonecrop, red Valerian and of course the Pellitory.
A short distance from the Norman part of the castle, inside the Roman walls is a huge bank of nettles which is fitting as it was the Romans who originally brought the nettles to England, to flail their joints in the cold weather (the Romans were a bit strange but we mustn’t knock them as they left us a legacy of fantastic heating and sewage systems).
Walking through the castle grounds and out through the west gate you immediately enter the village of Westham where the church is.
It is called St Mary’s and is a beautiful church. Behind the church, in the old part of the churchyard, are three magnificent lime trees.

You can complete the walk by turning left at the lime trees and going straight ahead through the newer part of the churchyard which leads to a path taking you behind the castle.

Lime Tree in Westham Churchyard

This is quite interesting as it gives you a good view of how the Norman castle was incorporated into the Roman walls. At the time the Romans landed, the sea came right up to that area and in fact Pevensey is one of the Cinque Ports now left high and dry.
You will find a write up of Lime flower and Pellitory in the herbs section and I will do a more in depth talk on Nettles in another video.

Linda Bostock
Medical herbalist

A Herb Walk at the Long Man of Wilmington, May 2011

What a glorious walk we went on today. It was one of those perfect days, blue skies and little fluffy clouds. Not too hot and not cold.

We are looking after our daughter’s dog while she and her boyfriend are on holiday.

Her name is Bo but AS-BO suits her much better as she tries to rule the household somewhat.

We took her and Henry dog and ourselves to the long Man in Wilmington which is about a 10 minute drive from our home and in the South Downs.

The long man is a chalk figure carved into the hillside, but is a bit of an enigma as no one knows its actual date. It could be ancient or it could be Victorian. Certainly the Victorians are known to have put white brick on the figure to preserve it.

It is an unusual chalk figure as it appears to be holding walking sticks and has no male bits and pieces which makes me favour the Victorian theory, or it is actually a long woman.

At the Foot of the Long Man of Wilmington

Above the long man are some very ancient burial barrows so the whole area has a magical feel to it.

Today I wanted to go and photograph a hawthorn tree that is half way up the hill, which I have been photographing in all seasons and all  weathers.

On our way up the hill I saw that the elder flower in the hedgerow is just starting to flower and the wild plants in the hedgerow, cow parsley, nettles, dock and herb Robert were all growing so profusely the path was about half the size it normally is.

There were sky larks singing whilst on the wing and sheep in the field. The colours seemed exceptionally vibrant with the grass very green, the sky very blue and the sheep with their babies very white and fluffy.

We walked right up above the long man and stood on the barrows turning a 360 circle to see the countryside around us.

View from the Long Man

From there you can see the sea towards Brighton, the White horse chalk carving on the opposite hill, Arlington reservoir, the undulating weald and the South Downs heading off towards Eastbourne where they end. It is a view that makes you catch your breath every time and not just because you are panting and puffing from having climbed the hill to get up there!

Very often on our walks on the downs we find off cuts of worked flints which would have been used as small knives and scrapers, but today I kicked a piece of chalk on the path and when I looked down at it, saw that it had an Ammonite imprint on it as well as some shell imprints. Just a little reminder of how the South Downs were formed!

Right at the end of the walk and due to the dog running in to the edge of the field we saw a largish patch of fumitory growing. I was rather pleased as I have not seen fumitory growing in East Sussex before although I know it likes scrubby land.

I love that walk and confess I take all our visitors there.

To read more about the plants seen in this video, go to the ‘Herbs and Health’ section of the site. To find out more about the conditions mentioned, go to the ‘Health’ section

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist