August 01, 2018

August is a relaxing month in England. A time for holidays, barbeques, seaside trips and sleepy, lazy days.

The days are at their warmest as we approach the end of summer, and the deep green of nature is punctuated with the colours of ripe berries.   The wheat is ripe in the fields and the harvest is almost done.  August is also a time for festivals and parties, so it is important to seize the moment and enjoy the remainder of the summer, while making plenty of time for tranquillity and reflection.

Birthstone

The birthstone for those born in August is the peridot. This sparkling lime green gemstone has been used in jewellery since the time of the Ancient Egyptians, and has long been associated with power and influence. It is believed to ward off feelings of negativity and anger, and help the wearer to attract love.

Birth flowers

August’s birth flowers are the gladiolus and the poppy. The gladiolus, sometimes known as the “sword lily”, is a tall plant known for its spikes of flowers in an array of bright colours. It is a particular favourite in summer bouquets, and symbolises calm, integrity and remembrance.

The cheerful poppy is intrinsically linked with English cornfields, with its delicate, coloured petals brightening the countryside. Red poppies symbolise pleasure, while yellow poppies wish their recipient success and wealth.

Interesting Days

  1. This year, Lammas Day; Lugnasadh or Loaf Mass, falls on the first of August.

Celebrated since early medieval times, Lammas was a day when people gave thanks for the start of the harvest season.  They celebrated the first seasonal fruits, seeds and flowers that were ready to be picked and the first wheat harvested.  

Corn dollies were made to represent the Goddess (the Grain Mother) and a special loaf of bread was baked using grains gathered from the first crop and blessed.  People believed this bread would protect their crops for the rest of the harvest season.

In addition to baking bread, it was a day when a whole host of other foods were collected and cooked for feasts and celebrations.  Including Meadowsweet Flowers, which can be used to make a delicious cordial, or, if you’re patient enough, to flavour mead.

  1. The UN’s International Day of Happiness falls on the 20 th  of August.

Only set up in 2013, it’s organised by   Action for Happiness, a group of people from 160 different countries who want to build a happier and more caring world.

The theme for 2019 is   Sharing Happiness.  Head over to the website to find out about how you can join in. There’s loads of ideas to help you spread a little kindness and help each other out.  https://www.dayofhappiness.net/#join

  1. Another fun, unofficial national holiday, Book Lovers Day falls on the 9 th  of August.  Where this one came from and quite who invented it is a complete mystery, but never mind, today it’s celebrated by book lovers from here to the USA and is the perfect excuse to turn off your phone and pick up a book for some much needed me time.

  2. The Glorious Twelfth strangely enough, occurs on 12 th  of August every year and has done since 1853 (that’s 166 years!). Today, it’s an event swirling with controversy.

 It marks the official beginning of the Red Grouse Shooting season in the UK.  The season lasts for 121 days, during which Red Grouse game birds can be shot every day except for Sundays, when shooting is prohibited.

  1. A slightly less contentious day, the 26 th  of August is National Dog Day. The day when dog lovers up and down the country let their best friends and fur babies know just how special they are.  There will be local dog shows and events going on up and down the country, but if you’re stuck for ways to celebrate, check out the ideas here on the Dog Day website: https://www.nationaldogday.com

  2. The last Monday in August is a Bank Holiday in England, this year falling on the 26 th, which gives most people the day off work to make a long weekend.

There are events and festivals held up and down the country, with thousands of people heading to seaside destinations for a last minute break away.

If sea and sand aren’t really your thing, the end-of-season sales now traditionally start in England’s high street stores, so many people can spend their day off trying to grab a bargain or two.   

Birds and animals

England’s skies in August are filled with martins and swallows, particularly over fields, while woodpigeons are often still nesting and may be seen defending their eggs. Blackbirds are attracted to the ripe berries in the hedgerows, and grey squirrels populate gardens and parks, searching for hazelnuts, although most are not yet ripe.

It's the perfect time of year to go out Owling (or owl-spotting) on a dry, clear night.  As long as you don’t mind going out at dawn or dusk that is. Official owl walks are held up at down the country if you don’t feel like just going out for a wander.

August is also the best month for spotting Britain’s bats and reptiles. Snakes and lizards can be found in sunny spots, and are easiest to see early in the morning, when they are still moving slowly, while bats have now come out of hibernation and can usually be seen on warm, dry days in countryside areas, some time around sunrise or sunset.

Butterflies and bees can still be seen pretty much everywhere and in heathlands, you can also hear grasshoppers giving their distinctive mating call.

Plants and flowers

Summer is coming to an end, and flower displays are not as spectacular as they were earlier in the season, but there is still plenty of beauty to be found. The gentle yellow flowers of the evening primrose can be seen in hedgerows and meadows, along with the purple and white wild marjoram and delicate blue harebells.

Close to the river you will find great willow herb and yellow water lilies, and in the garden, sunflowers and dahlias are at their best, seeing out the summer in a blaze of colour.

If you have the time to visit, the lavender fields will still be in bloom, many with hundreds of sunflowers with their faces now pointed towards the skies. 

In the hedgerows, fruit is now ripening everywhere, with blackberries, elderberries, red hawthorn, sloes and meadowsweet flowers, all starting to reach their best.  A haven for foragers everywhere.

 

Things to cook

Berries, berries, everywhere!

August is a month of jams, preserves and puddings with strawberry season coming to an end and blackberries now ripe in the hedgerows. 

Apple and blackberry crumble, blackberry jam, blackberry syrup for ice cream, blackberry sorbet……  You’re absolutely spoiled for choice and don’t forget about those elderberries!  They’re perfect for making syrup and jam too.

While you’re at it, did you know that both blackberries and elderberries can be made into the most delicious fruit wines?  A delicious end to the season.

Hawthorn berries are also in season, but I’ll admit, I’m always wary of these.  Although hawthorn jelly is quite delicious, those little red berries grow a little too close and look a little too similar to several types of poisonous berries for my liking.  Probably best avoided unless you’re going foraging with someone who seriously knows what they’re doing.

Of course, August is also a month for picnics and outdoor eating, with plenty of beautiful fresh foods in season.  You’re probably not going to want huge, heavy meals, so stick to buffet style foods or have a bbq every day, weather permitting.

Whip a batch or fresh strawberry ice cream sundae’s, sorbet, or some iced coffee’s.  It’s the only time of the year you’re really going to want iced coffee after all!

Not a coffee fan?  Fresh fruit smoothies, fresh lemonade, cordials and tropical cocktails always go down well!

Fish and seafood are in peak season in August, so it’s time to get creative in the kitchen with salmon, sea bass, cod and crab. Fish dishes work particularly well with seasonal produce including tomatoes and watercress.

Out in the garden you’ll find food aplenty with beans, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, courgettes, cucumber, leeks, peas, potatoes and sweetcorn.

There's plenty of fruit around too if the birds haven't got there first, with damsons, plums, rhubarb and pumpkin all being in season.

If you fancy having a go at old Anglo-Saxon cooking, why not try out a recipe for traditional Lammas bread or meadowsweet cordial.

Things to Make:

Considering how hot it is and how August is supposed to be the slowest month of the year, it always surprises me quite busy we seem to be.  Schools out and there’s always plenty of things to do to while away the long 6-week summer break.

If you’re in the vicinity of a lavender or sunflower farm, now will be your last opportunity to get hold of lavender for soaps, bath bombs, oils and lavender teas.  It will also be your last chance to harvest a whole load of sunflower seeds for recipes or snacking.

If you’re out walking, grab the opportunity for a little foraging.  You should see damsons and blackberries-a-plenty.  See if you can spot any Chamomile for fresh herbal tea.  It’s so much nicer than the shop-bought kind.

If you’re near the seaside, don’t forget to gather up a little seaweed.  It’s perfect for making skin perfecting face masks and body scrubs.

Keep everyone cool with some super easy homemade flavoured ice cubes or lollies.   Add some pieces of fresh fruit for a little something extra.


Things to Do: 

It’s National Allotments week from the 12 th   – 18 th .  While in some areas, you can get out and about to visit local allotments, you could also just use it as a good excuse to get out and finish off some summer-gardening. 

There’s not really much to be planted in August (unless you want to start thinking about sewing winter pansies for your flower beds), but you’ll still have plenty to do battling weeds.

Head into the garden for some easy garden games.  Ball games and obstacle courses can keep small people entertained for hours.  Get out the water guns or a few buckets of water and cool down with some messy fun, or make your own shade with a homemade tepee or tent made of sheets. 

Of course, you could always just get out a deckchair and enjoy a few hours reading in the sunshine.  Set up a few lanterns and relax into the evening.

Even if you’re not a fan of camping, as long as your neighbours don’t mind, you could have a bonfire at the end of your garden and sit outside toasting marshmallows in the dark.  Smores anyone?

If you decide to venture out, how about checking your local area for outdoor swimming pools?  Take a picnic down to your local park or river and try your hand at amateur fishing with a cheap rod or net.

Just watch out for sharp rocks or litter if you decide to paddle in the river with no shoes!

Take a flask of ice, some Pimms and fresh strawberries for a real treat.

Finally, remember to write a few postcards to your nearest and dearest. It’s the easiest, really personal way to keep in touch that doesn’t involve a computer or a phone.

 

Places to Go:

There are plenty of events happening around Britain in August.  Whilst you can obviously pack up your bucket and spade and head for the beach for a spot of paddling, sandcastle building, kite flying and crabbing, if you want to avoid the crowds at the seaside, consider a few of the following.

August is the month for taking riverboat trips, hot summer evening firework displays, camping (or glamping), bike riding and walking.  Check out your local area for what’s on offer.

The annual Robin Hood Festival takes place in Nottingham for a whole week between the 5 th  – 11 th.  Try your hand at medieval crafts and archery, or just take in some medieval music and enjoy some traditional medieval fayre. 

Don’t worry if you missed out on all your local country shows, BBC Country File Live has 2 country shows taking place during August.  Advertising themselves as the Best Country Fairs in the world, you can go along to Blenheim Place, Oxfordshire between the 1 st  – 4 th, or Castle Howard in York between the 15th – 18 th  for talks from the BBC presenters and much more.

Have a go at fishing and kayaking, or watch the falconry, dog, duck and equine shows.  There’s loads for everyone. talks from the BBC presenters and much more.

Music Lover?

Why not check out the Cambridge Folk Festival in the grounds of Cherry Hinton Hall, Cambridge between the 1 st  and the 4 th.  The oldest folk festival in the world, see folk musicians from around the world with plenty to keep the while family entertained.

Something more current?

There are family friendly music festivals taking place everywhere with Victorious Festival on Southend Seafront over the weekend of the 23 rd  – 25 th  and Bestival at the Lulworth Estate in Dorset between the 25 th  and 28 th.

Or for something slightly more grown up, checkout both Creamfields in Daresbury, Cheshire (22 nd  – 25 th) and The Reading and Leeds Festival in Richfield Avenue, Reading on the weekend of the 23 rd  – 25 th.

In London, Europe’s biggest street carnival takes place in Notting Hill over the bank holiday weekend, with around a million people gathering to watch the floats, join in the parade and soak up the atmosphere to celebrate Caribbean heritage.

The famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival takes place in Scotland, with a wide variety of theatre, music and dance performances being enjoyed throughout the city for almost the whole month, starting on the 2 nd  and not ending until the 26 th.

Finally, The UK’s largest air festival in Bournemouth takes place in the last week of August, starting on the 29 th, right up to the 1 st  of September.


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