May 14, 2008

Jack in the Green and the coastal scene....

There was a festival in Hastings called Jack in the Green ( the other weekend that I was able to go to. Fergus went away for holiday and let me use his home for the weekend since he lives right in "Old Town", which you can see below. It is seperated by hills on either side and leads you right through the town to the ocean. You can go from the one hill through the town to the old hill, or go right to the ocean in all in a matter of 10 minutes, it is fun to have so many views in such a short time.
It was a great time to see this small fishing town wake up and celebrate the beginning of summer with a festive parade that led through the town and ended up at the castle ruins. The large green shrub you see is Jack in the Green and represents what the celebration is all about. There were garlands that were made by different groups throughout the years of this parade but it was the chimney sweepers that made one so big it covered a whole man. This manshrub is now the official character of the celebration.There were large and beautifully crafted mannequins that were paraded down the small streets. One of the many participants with the proverbial green stripe that people will do to you through out the day. The costumes were creative and alot of fun to see.

After a long day of festivities, and people, and people with beer, the coastal footpaths looked very inviting. There are footpaths that run for miles along the coast with some of the most amazing views.
This is a path lined with Ulex europaeus, or Gorse as it is commonly known. It is an evergreen shrub that is all over England since it self seeds in lots of areas. It has thorns and stiff thin foliage on it and was used by farmers as a living fence for their livestock, and also as fuel for baker's ovens, as cattle food, for people to dry their washings, as a chimney brush and as a color dye for Easter eggs. There is a saying here that goes, 'When gorse is in bloom, kissing's in season' but what is funny is that it blooms from January through February. It is said that from the English Channel, when the light is hitting the yellow blooms just right, it looks like the cliffs are on fire.
Further down the footpath on top of some cliffs, about 400 ft. up, was this plant growing right up against the edge. It is called Thrift, Armeria maritima, and is a cushion forming perennial. We weren't sure if it was an allium of some kind or a dianthus but were both wrong.
Here is Thrift growing with English Stonecrop, Sedum anglicum (?) or Sedum acre also known as Biting Stonecrop (due to it's peppery taste). It was exciting to see sedum growing in the wild, but I am not sure which one it is because it was not in bloom. It should be blooming in May if it is Sedum acre. Having found these plants, and many others, and being curious to find out which Sedum it is, we have decided to do a two day hike from Brighton to Hastings. Plants of interest would be keyed out along the way, and we could follow an old sheep herding trail as well. The route will be figured out.