Foraging in Bowland for botanicals with Goosnargh Gin
PUBLISHED: 00:00 08 July 2019
Forage for your own botanicals from Beacon Fell to make your own gin, with a little help from some experts
Adrian Rose is a good person to know. Some might say that's because of the foraging expert's ability to warn you off potentially fatal plants, help you find the best wild food and ensure your survival in the wilderness. But for those in the know, it's for his skills helping you produce the perfect gin.
He discovered his love for wild, edible foods as a child under the stewardship of his Romany gypsy grandmother and what Adrian doesn't know about the great outdoors is not worth knowing. He puts this knowledge to good use through courses and bushcraft experiences and also runs a community interest company passing on his skills to help military personnel deal with trauma and PTSD.
In fact, there was no one better qualified than the Chatburn-based bushcraft expert for Goosnargh Gin founders, Rachel and Richard Trenchard. They knew he would be the ideal person for their new foraging and distilling days near their home at Beacon Fell.
I got to spend a morning soaking up Adrian's knowledge on one of the day-long experiences. Watching the skilled forager scour the ground, trees and woodland was fascinating. He pointed me towards a healthy carpet of pea green coloured leaves that delivered a surprising burst of apple and citrus. Throughout the morning young sycamore flowers, wood sorrel and bilberries were also on the menu. We picked them delicately - in small amounts to preserve plant numbers - and took them back to Rachel and Richard's distillery, next to their home in Whitechapel.
The foraging and distilling experiences were a natural progression for the couple whose connection with the land has formed the backbone of their brand. They turned their enjoyment of drinking gin into making it and now have Chapter One, their signature blend described as a meadow in your mouth, along with Chapter Two Dark Skies - a nod to Bowland's star-gazing status. The names also allude to Richard's more than two decades as a writer and journalist
Their love of the Bowland countryside permeates their business and the couple intend to deepen that connection with the release of two new seasonal gins. Chapter Three will be a floral gin using peonies with rose and hibiscus. Chapter Four is being created working with the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty team and Peter Blackwell, of Bell Sykes Farm in Slaidburn.
'Our gins are designed to reflect and celebrate the area in which we live, work and distil,' said Richard. 'Whether that is in the botanicals we use, or as some other nod to the Forest of Bowland's geography or heritage.
'Chapter Three will be a feast for the senses, like stepping into the garden on a balmy summer evening. With Chapter Four we'll be using a fresh cut of Peter's ecologically diverse and highly renowned hay meadow to produce our Hay Time gin. A proportion of the profits will be donated to support the work of Forest of Bowland AONB educational projects. It's something we're extremely pleased to be involved with.'
Spending a day with them it is clear to see their joy and passion in what they do. After a morning's foraging with Adrian, they prepared a fine lunch before we went into their adjacent micro-distillery. This is home to their three stills Beatrice, Constance and Felicity and their six new beautifully crafted mini copper stills where we would put our own foraged botanicals to good use.
And it was alchemy at its finest. I weighed out my foraged botanicals along with others I chose to add in back at the distillery. With bilberries and meadowsweet my dominant ingredients, I sat back and waited for the mini still to do its work. While we spent a sociable few hours chatting, learning more about Goosnargh Gin, the stills gently heated the alcohol, bubbling away, steeping the foraged goodies, before tubes released a pure, crystal clear liquid. Using an intriguing bit of equipment, we were able to measure the strength of our gin before diluting it with spring water and taking it home to enjoy.
What the couple have created in Goosnargh Gin are superb drinks with the area's heritage and location at its heart. They also helped me, a gin making novice, create a decent tipple. Cheers to that.
Goosnargh Gin will hold autumn foraging and distilling days in September and October. Each day, which costs £95, accommodates six people. For more information, or to book, email firstname.lastname@example.org