here you will do well to linger; here our highest good is pleasure”

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Respect Your Elders

May 28, 2020

It’s said that no house nor any ship was ever built from elder wood and even wizards thought it the most troublesome tree from which to fashion a magic wand.

Yet this hallowed tree has been held in the highest regard by Britons since time began and its different uses are seemingly just as endless as its folklore.

Legend has it elder trees provided protection from witches and attracted fairies while pagan superstition forbid cutting or burning its wood in case you angered the spirit of the sacred Elder Mother.

Elder is a hypochondriac’s dream. Medieval herbalists extolled the healing power of its shoots, leaves, flowers and berries for an array of ailments from coughs and fever to soothing saddle-rash after an enthusiastic ride around your estate.

It could even make you look dapper; herbalist Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654) described the berries as an effective way to dye grey hair and the Harris Tweed industry used the fruit, bark and leaves to colour fabrics purple, blue, black, green and yellow.

An old saying is that ‘an English summer hasn’t arrived until the elder is in full bloom and ends when the berries are ripe’ and now is the ideal time to forage for elderflowers in gardens, parks and hedgerows to make into a quintessentially English cordial, which is also tremendous in a refreshing English Garden Spritz;


20 ml Broken Clock Vodka
30 ml Elderflower Cordial
50 ml Soda Water
Fresh Lime Juice
Mint Leaves
Elderflower Garnish


Slap the mint leaves with your palm and add to a large iced glass. Add the vodka, cordial and soda and top with prosecco. If it tastes too sweet add a little lime juice. Delicately stir the cocktail so as not to lose the bubbles and add the garnish.

Elderflower cordial:

Pick and wash 15 elderflower blooms. In a saucepan bring 750 ml of water, 500 ml caster sugar and three tbsp of honey gently to the boil. Once dissolved remove from the heat. Zest two lemons into the pan, then slice them and add along with the elderflowers and 20 g citric acid. Stir then infuse overnight. Finely strain the cordial using a muslin cloth or fabric. Refrigerate in a sterilised bottle.