The original pilgrim
stalks the retreating ice,
trailed by a carpet of crack-nuts,
a treasure map
to the threshold between worlds
as long-dead Saxon drovers
march to the beat of the hammer pond,
with wind-tumbled pollen at their backs
and wisdom wedged in the coppice stools.
Weary, the tooth-leaved traveller dozes
long enough for a hazel
dormouse to call a hollow home.
LISA ANDREWS | Hazel | High Weald, Kent
A practical spell for conjuring hazel
You will need:
1x High Weald woodland soothsayer named Ross
A bewitchment of High Weald AONB experts.
An enchantment of woodland books
A pinch of Google research
1x diabolically sunny afternoon
1x uncanny dog named Arnold (expect a discussion on stick ownership)
- Contact your soothsayer and arrange a date to visit his realm – the best-preserved medieval landscape in Europe.
- Meanwhile, take your books and research and stir thoroughly. At this stage visions may occur – expect to learn that hazel is part shrub, part tree, part weed and that it marched north at the end of the last Ice Age. You’ll see it represents wisdom and was sacred to the Norse god Thor. You’ll find that hazelnuts – known in Kentish dialect as crack-nuts – are one of five sacred foods of China and that in Irish legend a salmon grew wise by eating a nut from one of nine hazels surrounding its pool.
- On the diabolical day, head for the High Weald. Some prefer car, others broomstick. Apparation should only be carried out by Level 4 conjurers.
- Upon arrival you will be greeted by your soothsayer and bewitchment of experts to learn the secrets of the land: how hazel is used to make a type of fence called hurdles; that in old houses it can be found in the wattle and daub; that peasants once foraged hazelnuts, hanging them in bags from trees as a snack; that branches were placed inside houses to protect against lightning; and that it is an excellent fuel that would have been used by the local iron industry that once dominated the Weald.
- And so, to your final stage. You’ll need about three hours for the spell to take, because the High Weald is beautiful in summer and Ross probably ate some hazelnuts given how much he knows. Don’t forget the dog. Along the way, you’ll learn how hazel branches can be notched and twisted to form the backbone of a hedge. You’ll see hammer ponds that once drove waterwheels that powered iron forges. You probably won’t see a hazel dormouse snoozing in the root spaces of a coppice stool (the roots and stumps that have been cut back over time to stimulate new growth), but you might see their perfectly gnawed hazelnut shells. You will almost certainly head down sunken lanes and clamber over brambles.
- Follow each step carefully to conjure a beautiful, gnarly hazel tree in wild woodland. Indulge in light forest bathing, argue over sticks with Arnold and marvel at the fact that Ross gets to spend his days in this magical land.