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November 19, 2018


Sloa Gin

The blackthorn sloe is the fruit you need to make your own sloe gin. And they are abundant right now in Bedford's country parks.

If you’ve never made sloe gin then now’s the time. Once there’s been a frost the blackthorn sloes (or prunus spinoza) are supposed to taste a little better. Some people make jams and more from them. But, frankly, there are better fruits for such purposes. Yet sloe gin, and even sloe vodka, is a great winter warmer. You’ll find sloes all over Priory Park but everywhere else too. Actually the sloes themselves have been used to make inks in the past, and the leaves make a form of tea too. Meanwhile the wood has traditionally been used for what the military refer to as ‘swagger sticks’.

Sloe gin is a cinch to make and definitely worth the effort. So here’s how.

You start with the gin. And for this purpose I’d recommend you visit Aldi or Lidl. For £10 or so you can buy a litre bottle of something decent (there have been some product comparisons in which these lines have fared well). Then you need about a pound of sloes. Give them a rinse then prick each one just once with a clean pin. You need a receptacle. I use a ship’s decanter but you could use a big Kilner jar. Sloa BottleOr something like that. Pop the gin in, and the sloes, then add about half a pound of white sugar. And then a good dash of almond essence (nothing oily) or, alternatively, a good slosh of something like an amaretto liquor.

Agitate the lot and sit back to watch it over the coming weeks, giving it the odd shake. Gradually the gin will take on a blueish hue. And by Christmas you should have seen quite a transformation but, moreover, it will taste pretty good.

There is no need to remove the fruit. Just keep pouring until the alcohol’s gone. Then dump what’s left.

I recommend it with Christmas cake, either Stilton or Cambozola cheese, and a good coffee.


Volunteering to help in the parks is great fun and a good way to keep fit whilst losing weight in the fresh air. It attracts a wonderful mix of fascinating people too!

celebration Evening


Right now there is a lot of hard work to do coppicing, trimming the wood as it’s removed, and then using it to create the basis for hedgerows.

The park staff, and certainly some of the volunteers, are clearly very familiar with such processes. So anyone who wants to know a little more, perhaps in order to manage their own property better, is encouraged to join the regular volunteer sessions.


Anyone who regularly visits Bedford’s parks will realise that they’re treasure-troves for those who like to pick fruit, and that’s something which families love to do together


Remember that what looks like an edible mushroom may be poisonous. You need to be an expert to be able to make a positive identification. But avoid those below for starters.



Jon Bishop (Bedford’s Country Park Warden and a man who’s responsible for several sites in the region) is always looking for help from capable volunteers.Volunteers Needed

Expect hard work that’s certain to burn thousands of calories. So this is a marvellous way to tone up whilst losing some weight. But it’s a bit of a social event too. And it will get you out of the house to make new friends.

If you’re interested in being a Priory Country Park Volunteer (you’ll be paid in drinks and biscuits) then you can get hold of Jon Bishop by emailing him using Sessions are usually on either the first or the last Sunday of the month (yet are subject to change, so check first) and the meeting-point is the park ranger’s compound behind the Cloverdale Retreat café. But the next session is due on Sunday 25th November. Volunteers will meet at 9.30am for a 10.00am start. And, if you cannot get away on a Sunday or you’re a glutton for punishment, other opportunities are available during the week.

Paul Dunwell
Paul Dunwell
Paul originally trained as an infantryman then a teacher. He was perhaps the UK’s youngest lecturer and assistant examiner, and taught for almost a decade before moving into Swiss-based commerce then international market intelligence. He’s been a copywriter for almost 30 years. Educated to master’s level twice, he writes for almost every purpose and kind of client imaginable. Paul has 4 children. As you can see from the photo, his other great love is the outdoors. Paul’s ambitions are to catch big fish through small holes in the ice, to be recognized as the rightful King of Swaziland, and to retire early in order to spend more time with his money. Paul’s professional profile is at LinkedIn

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