An Expedition to Pick English Lavender at Carshalton Beeches
February, and my bolthole has become a glorious, aromatic perfumed den. Corners in every room from ceiling beam, to spare ledges and every single surface in the guest bedroom is crammed to bursting with neat rows of flowers, herbs, dark red rose petals and lavender tied in bundles or, laid out on pages of The Daily Telegraph. “There are no end of good uses for The Daily Telegraph,” declares my companion, in a contented, yet practical tone, and he is right. We are carefully drying our foraged booty from Coastal Trail to Community Lavender Field – to make luxuriant homemade pot pourri and lavender bags and maybe even pork belly with lavender… How would I get through the day without this wonderful, mood lifting, intensely scented purple flower? A few drops of organic lavender on the pillow instantly sends me off into a deep, luxuriant sleep, it can banish a headache, melt away stress and it makes a great moth deterrent…
Back on a perfect high summer day in late July, my man leapt out of bed, told me to grab my ladylike secateurs and declared we were off on a Lavender Picking Adventure. Wow! I haven’t been so girlishly excited since I discovered the perfect goddess dress by La Perla – an alluring confection of black and white hound’s-tooth check, delicate lace panelling and Rolls Royce engineering for the body.
A Cloud of Schiaparelli Pink Netting By Stephen Jones
I celebrate and leave the house in a cloud of Schiaparelli pink net by the milliner Stephen Jones. Well, a girl absolutely needs a proper sun hat in high summer. It’s late Saturday morning when we take the train to the quaintly sounding Carshalton Beeches. We are heading for The Stanley Road Community Lavender Project in Sutton. Three acres of rundown allotments have been transformed by local volunteers and inmates from HMP Downview Prison into a purple Eden with the help of the environmental organisation BioRegional Development Group.
English Lavender is Back in Vogue
Lavender is firmly back in vogue, along with knitting from scratch; jam making and clothes swishing parties. Back in 1900 Yardley and its celebrated English Lavender Water was more fashionable than a dab of Chanel No 5, and the south facing London hills were known as the ‘Lavender growing Capital of the World’. I’ve never been to Carshalton. Amazingly, nearly every house we walk past has a lavender bush. The best bit? Walking onto the allotment to be greeted by a sea of smiling faces, bobbing up and down amid neat rows of dazzling, vibrant purple bushes. I feel as if I have stumbled on a little corner of Provence. I saunter past a stand selling tiny bottles of newly harvested lavender oil and three ladies chorus, ” Ooh! You should win a the prize for the most beautiful hat.”
The Many Uses of Lavender, Beloved of Elizabeth the 1st
There are mothers, lovers, dogs, toddlers and grandparents all intently picking lavender and basking in the revival of a simple and time-honoured rite and pleasure. To pick, harvest and maybe even distil a flower that has the power to uplift, balance and delight the mind and beloved by Elizabeth the first. Very sensibly, she demanded fresh lavender every day. For a glorious hour or so, I note that it is perfectly possible for humans, bees and dancing, nectar-hunting Painted Lady butterflies to co-exist in the purple haze, and when we leave with our bags over flowing with our floral booty I feel an inexplicable sense of bliss. On the way back to the station we stumble across a wonderful deli and chocolatier and splurge on dainty handmade, mini quiches, chocolate buttons and Pavlova.
Take a look at the website for all things lavender – from interesting recipes to volunteering days and maybe they might put on another ethical speed-dating event. The first one resulted in fifteen matches!
The Ethical-Hedonist loved the delightful handmade organic lavender beauty goodies made from Carshalton Lavender by Naturally Thinking, and particularly liked the delicate, apricot coloured face cream with sea buckthorn oil.
Patisserie – 3a,Beeches Avenue, Carshalton Beeches, Surrey.