The Cateran trail comprises over sixty miles of ancient paths and cattle droves, named after the fearsome cattle thieves who utilised these rural and secluded paths. Our new home is being built right on the trail and as we build it we enjoy watching and talking to the hikers who make their own journey along the trail.
This week my children and I walked along a stretch of the trail to the south, an opportunity for me to get acquainted with a new stretch of the trail and the plants that grow their. I immediately felt very at home among many medicinals, growing peacefully on the lush hillside. As we journeyed further up the track we were met by beautiful purple heather and the refreshing hill winds, whispering greetings from our home further North.
My oldest herbal friend, Meadowsweet, was waiting for me behind the stream that winds it way down the hillside. Her fever reducing properties have been called upon time and time again this Summer, reliably helping those in need. It was lovely to see her here and pay thanks.
She was joined by the stream by the sublimely aromatic Water mint. That colour! And those downy hairs!
We have a long history of use with this beautiful Mint. Our Stone Age ancestors cooked with it, whilst in more recent centuries it was one of our strewing herbs – strewn for both aromatic pleasure and for medicinal purposes. When you crush the leaves and admire the aromatic volatile oils within this plant it is of no surprise that Water mint was used in an early form of smelling salts. Picked on a walk it makes a helpful companion for those who are prone to car sickness on their journey home, as they can crush and smell the leaves to allay nausea.
Euphrasia and the sunshine yellow of Hypericum – so exciting to have these two growing along the trail. We held the Hypericum leaves up to the sun to look for the identifying perforations that can be found with the medicinal St John’s Wort.
This plucky Tormentil was hanging on to the overhanging bank by the stream higher up on the hill, clinging on with his astringent roots. I harvest the roots for their tannins, which gently tone and bind the lining of the gut – so, so useful in cases of IBS.
Yarrow! A medicine chest in itself, this plant exudes wisdom and competence, stepping in to sort out distressing symptoms and bringing calm to a situation – staunching the heavy bleed, calming the fever, bringing down a high blood pressure. The Sister of the herbal “ward”, taking charge cool, calm and collected.
Our walk ended with these two beauties, Red Clover and Self heal – vibrant in the sunshine.
I look forward to foraging along this trail over the years and finding out all about the therapeutics of the plants that grow alongside this ancient path, wondering as I go, about those who have picked and used the plants here throughout history on their own journey. Did the feared Caterans use Yarrow on their wounds? And did the communities living high up in the Glens pick the wildflowers as they carried their lost love ones down to the churches on the valley floor? Such history. Such promise for the future.