In search of elderflower near Cheriton, Hampshire

Every year around this time, Tiff and I make a few batches of elderflower cordial to drink over the summer.

Elderflower seemingly pops up everywhere in late May and early June. Yet we always struggle to find any in a good spot – on a public right of way, easily accessible (not too high up!) and away from traffic fumes.

One reason for this is that the elder tree is inconspicuous for most of the year – only when it’s in blossom or in fruit is it easy to find. We also forget where we harvested our elderflower in previous years.

So, armed with a big (pink) plastic bag (no wicker baskets for us like they do on the telly), we drove out to Cheriton near Alresford to search for elder and take Tilly for a walk. I was hoping we might also get to stop by the Flower Pots pub for a pint on the way home.

File 16-06-2015 19 16 19 They say you should pick elderflower on a sunny day so you get the most fragrant flowers. Unfortunately, it was a bit cloudy. But we’re too impatient to wait for the right weather conditions.

We parked up by the green in the middle of the village and picked up the Itchen Way path past the church. It was Saturday evening so the village was pretty quiet apart from the ducks waddling over the grass.

The Itchen Way continues north along a shallow valley and hugs the edge River Itchen (naturally) so Tilly was able to have a paddle in one of the cattle crossings. We spotted our first elderflower here on the brow of the hill to our right. On closer inspection, after climbing the steep hillside, it was too high up to pick and surrounded with stinging nettles. This didn’t stop Tiff showing off her tree climbing skills.

File 16-06-2015 19 14 59 At the end of the valley we reached the lane that takes you up to Tichborne and gazed into the clear water to see if we could see any trout on the hunt for flies. More elder trees dotted the flood plain around us, annoyingly out of reach.

We walked up the road a few hundred metres and then doubled back through a farm to take the footpath back to Cheriton. Still no elderflower to pick. But, just as we thought we were going to return home empty handed, we turned a corner into a large corn field with loads of elderflower dotted throughout the boundary’s hedgerows. Out came the bright pink bag just as a gunshot echoed in the distance – totally unrelated to our activities, I’m sure.

File 16-06-2015 19 17 41 File 16-06-2015 19 17 09 After 10 minutes of carefully plucking the best flower heads, we continued through another corn field with our overflowing plastic bag back to lane that runs back down to Cheriton. Here, a couple of horse riders made a joke about our bright pink bag – truth be told, it didn’t really fit in with the beautiful countryside setting.

We decided to forgo the pub trip in the end, as I’d had my fill at the Southampton Beer Festival the previous night. All that was left to do once we returned home was to shake the bugs off the elderflower and prepare the cordial.

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