September and October and the leaves are changing colours to the yellows, reds and browns of autumn. From the field at the top of the hill, the woods of the Chess Valley and the hills beyond towards Sarratt and Flaunden, make a fine panorama. There are even benches where you can sit and enjoy the view – these are marked on the map of the estate. East of the Nature Reserve, the woods of Loudwater are magnificent. The horse chestnuts are shedding their shiny brown conkers, there are fine trees in the dip below the main house, and at the far side of the Orchard field.
Around the fields in the hedges are masses of hawthorn with their scarlet berries. Less obvious at first are sloe berries on the blackthorn bushes, but search them out if you want to make Sloe Gin. Traditionally you should wait till after the first frost to gather the sloes, but any time from October they should be ready. Good blackthorn bushes can be found on the edges of Wood Walk, and in the hedge bordering the footpath beside the Scout Camp.
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300 g sloes
150 g sugar
500 ml gin
Wash and dry the sloes. Prick several holes in the skin of each berry, using a skewer or cocktail stick and pop it into a clean litre bottle. Add the sugar, easier if you use a funnel, and the gin and screw the lid firmly. Give it a good shake and then leave it , shaking every 2 or 3 days at first, then about once a week; you will see the sugar gradually dissolve. Traditionally, sloe gin made before Hallowe’en will be ready for drinking by Christmas. Strain off the liquid and enjoy!