This week… Tarzan, treehouses, and traceability

News of a new luxury treehouse resort drops into my inbox this week. The Treeful Treehouse Eco Resort is set to open next spring in rural Nago, on the north side of Okinawa Island in Japan, one of the world’s Blue Zone Regions. Think secluded private rooms with air conditioning, nestled amongst the jungle canopy. Tarzan never had it this good.

When I was growing up we would tramp the fields and hedgerows keeping an eye out for wild blackberries, cobnuts, and anything else edible in season. We didn’t call it foraging, of course, and the local farmer whose cherry trees we would occasionally raid would have another name for it (ahem). Being able to roam freely as a child and have adventures shaped my world. It was probably the beginning of my wanderlust, not to mention a lifelong love of good food.

National Hedgerow Day

Hampshire hedgerows. Remember not all berries are edible!

Amazingly there are still around 500,000 miles of hedgerows in Britain. Not only do they protect crops but also provide shelter for livestock and wildlife, such as doormice, which in turn provide food for foraging owls (sad, but an integral part of nature). Wild fruits, berries and botanicals grow in the hedgerows and provide a natural larder but they also capture and store carbon from the air, thereby helping to reduce the impact of climate change.

Sloemotion Distillery in North Yorkshire is celebrating a National Hedgerow Day. Their foragers are looking out for elder berries, nettle leaves, rosehips, and crab apples to be used in its gins. They’re encouraging people to go on their own foraging missions in their local hedgerows to spot and record what they find growing and living.

We can all recognise a blackberry bush tangled in a roadside hedge but look closer and you’ll find sloes which we use for sloe gin, crab apples, rosehips and elderflower berries. At this time of year you’ll also see small Tortoiseshells and Red Admiral butterflies.” Joff Curtoys. Founder and head forager at Sloemotion Distillery.

Photo: a Chalk Hill Blue in the Winchester hills.

Autumn is the perfect time for foraging as nature puts on a burst of produce before the winter months. Our ancestors too, would be busy preparing for winter at this time of year, preserving food in preparation for the lean times ahead.

Slowmotion Gin are inviting people to post the results of their own foraging on social media tagged #hedgerowday to be recorded by the team. A helpful free checklist is available on the website and if you’d like to sign up you will be entered into a prize draw to win a bottle of their Hedgerow Gin. Perhaps you’ll get lucky and find some sloes to make your own gin, which is very easy to do. National Hedgerow Day (Saturday 26 September).

If Music be the Food of Love

An old adage but true nonetheless. This week I travelled to Florence for an informal live performance by English Classical Violinist Charlie Siem, courtesy of Zoom and Belmond, the luxury hospitality and leisure experts. It was sublime. Born in London to a Norwegian father and British mother, incredibly, Siem began to play the violin at the age of three after hearing a broadcast of Yehudi Menuhin playing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. At only 34 he is an ambassador of The Prince’s Trust and a Visiting Professor at Leeds College of Music (UK) and Nanjing University of the Arts (China). Siem also gives masterclasses (where does he find the time) around the world at top institutions such as the Royal College of Music and the Accademia di Musica in Florence. I love that violins are named. Charlie Siem plays the 1735 Guarneri del Gesù violin, known as the ‘D’Egville’, and previously owned by the Master, Menuhin.

“The only downside to playing the violin is that you never know when you’re going to be asked to play. I could be out to dinner or having a drink at a bar, and someone could just give me a violin, and I’ve got to be ready to play.”. Charlie Siem.

Zoom is amazing but I hope I’m fortunate enough to attend a Charlie Siem concert in person some day. Being in the audience at a live concert is life-changing and I have wonderful memories, for instance, of an evening at the Arena di Verona Festival one summer. At the Barbican for a performance by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, I was stunned when the soprano opera singer simply walked onto the stage without any fanfare and began to sing. The most powerful, magnificent vocals were like warm honey. A girl friend when I lived in Mallorca was a London concert violinist and would sometimes give private impromptu performances, often out in the middle of the countryside.

Costa Rica, New National Park

St Lucas Island. Photos courtesy the Office of the First Lady of Costa Rica. Photograper Julieth Méndez

Previously a prison until 1991 then a Wildlife Refuge, the historic San Lucas Island National Park is made up of both land and coastal areas. Covering 1.8 square miles it is home to Howler monkeys, snakes, deer and pheasants. Located off the Pacific coast of the Gulf of Nicoya the island is the 30th national park in Costa Rica where protected areas now encompass more than 28% of its land mass.

The new national park represents an investment of over £224,000 in sustainable tourism and the soco-economic development of the area. Features include trails, the all-important toilets, water and electricity systems, as well as 24-hour surveillance and over 50 tourist guides. One for the dream list.

Living the Blue Zone life

Amongst the trees in a luxury eco treehouse in Okinawa. Photos Treeful Treehouse.

A Blue Zone lifestyle may not be everyone’s cup of tea but a new sustainable treehouse eco resort, set in the jungle canopy in rural Nago in Japan, aims to combine luxury with adventure. The ‘resort’ will comprise four individual treehouse rooms on the banks of the Genka River for up to two guests each. The rooms have been crafted to blend into the natural environment and modern facilities include air conditioning. There are 360 degree views and an outside seating area complete with hammocks for night-time stargazing.

A communal Aerohouse is equipped with bathrooms, rest and relaxation rooms. A kitchen is connected to the treehouses via a series of floating walkways and jungle paths. A Floating DNA Catwalk, mimicking the vertebrae of the spine, connects the ground to the tree deck for accessibility to wheelchair users. 

Once open, activities and experiences – jungle trekking, kayaking, paddle boarding and yoga – will be available to guests. The resort is powered purely by its own solar energy. Treeful Treehouse projects already in place in support of the local community include reinstating a water mill at the site of the Shizogumui Waterfall.

In my inbox

Liverpool Literary Festival

Writer Adele Parks. Photo courtesy Liverpool Literary Festival.

Returning this autumn in online form and live-streaming, the festival programme of established writers and emerging talents opens with the UK’s first female poet laureate and prolific writer (including children’s books), Professor Dame Carol Ann Duffy. Saturday’s schedule includes Adele Parks, author of best-seller Just My Luck, who will be recalling the moments that helped her secure a literary career. Heidi Thomas, one of the pens behind Call the Midwife, Cranfield and Little Women will be sharing insights on screenwriting and adaptation.

Screen star Stephen McGann, Call the Midwife’s Dr Turner, will be followed by Merseyside’s own Alexei Sayle at the Liverpool Literary Festival 2020. Photo #LivLitFest.

Highlights on Sunday include Lynne Truss of Eats, Shoots and Leaves fame talking about her years as a sportswriter and her latest work, Get Her Off the Pitch: How Sport Took Over My Life. Louise Hare continues the theme of urban tales by reading excerpts from her debut tome, This Lovely City, which tells the story of a jazz musician in the age of Windrush. That last one sounds like one for adapation to TV.

Liverpool Literary Festival runs from October 9 – 11 via Zoom and the Liverpool Literary Festival Facebook page. Book places at #LivLitFest

Sustainable fabrics

In a pandemic world, where we don’t officially know the origin of the virus, traceability has become mainstream. We want to know more about where the products we consume come from, whether that’s the food we eat, the wine we imbibe or the clothes we wear. While that may not seem an entirely new concept, it now carries a personal and very real health warning. We’re also more aware of our individual impact on the lives of others, including where and how we travel. Self responsibility and social compassion have come of age.

de le Cuona fabrics aim to seek out the best quality natural fibres and the finest artisans. Photo de Le Cuona.

In Euripides’ play, Glauce, the young bride to be is gifted with a poisoned dress by a revengeful Medea, intent on destroying her replacement in Jason’s affections. This is a Greek tragedy, so it will come as no suprise to hear that poor Glauce meets a sticky end.

“There is growing scientific consensus that chemicals — like those used to create stain repellency and anti-wrinkle clothing — are potentially toxic.” Vogue Business (31 May 2019). Euripides in around 431BC was employing his imagination, however, in a modern world the use of chemicals is not limited to clothing, but are also used in fabrics in furniture making, and elsewhere.

100% organic linen by de Le Cuona.

I was interested then, to read that Fabric house, de Le Cuona, has launched a collection of interior textiles specifically marketed at ‘those who are pursuing wellness and looking to invest in a healthy lifestyle.’ The new range, Pure, is made from 100% organic linen certified to The Global Organic Textile Standard. Certification ensures the organic status of the linen, from the harvesting of the raw materials, through environmentally and socially responsible making, without the use of harmful chemicals to ensure that ‘no damaging particles are emitted into the environment or the air we breathe in our interiors.’

Sadly, it’s not easy to avoid toxic chemicals entirely, although I made sure to buy linen face masks during lockdown (the weave is denser so they’re a better option than cotton, though I have some of those too). I’m an avid reader of labels when clothes shopping. Natural fibres feel so much nicer next to your skin too, and pre-loved and vintage is a good option for silk, cashmere or pure wool. Let’s hope de le Cuona’s initiative spreads more widely within the fashion industry.

That’s all for this week. The pandemic is not over yet it seems as we face the prospect of another lockdown in the UK but I wish you all a healthy and pleasant week (let’s not get over-excited). Safe stay and well.

As always please check the Foreign travel advice web site for the latest on international travel guidelines.

Unless otherwise stated, I have no affiliation with the brands mentioned but simply aim to share places and products that have caught my eye. I will always state if a post is sponsored or gifted.

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