Walk time: 1 hour 15 mins to 2 hours (depending on how long you stop and stare or ponder and pluck).
Difficulty: easy - though unsuitable for those who are unsteady on their feet or for pushchairs, as paths are uneven.
Set off down Top Hagg Lane in Fritchley (with your back to the new Forest View development) and then follow the track to the right, having passed through the gate at the end of the lane. This will lead you across the hillside (with fabulous views of the Amber Valley below and across to Heage Windmill on the opposite hillside), parallel to the reservoir. The path eventually leads into Chadwick Nick woods via a stile near the bottom of the reservoir where new trees have been planted and across a bridge over a small stream. In the woods there are many tracks created by animals and dog walkers alike, but if you just head straight you will eventually come to the mossy stoned ruin of the gamekeeper’s cottage. Here, if you bear left and downhill slightly, the path will rejoin the main path to the right up to the top of Chadwick Nick and across the fields to Chadwick Nick Lane. Most paths lead back to the main path in case you miss the turning at the ruins.
Photos of key points on the walk are below the recipe...
Your way should be strewn either side with wild garlic in the spring (not to mention bluebells which follow the garlic season), and if you fancy picking yourself a bunch of garlic be sure just to pick the leaves and not the bulbs. Leaves are best picked before flowering, as once the tiny white star-like flowers have bloomed, the leaves become bitter and not quite as tasty.
For those of you with wheels, the hillsides either side of Wakebridge and Lea Shaw are just as bountiful and the woods around Cromford Canal also offer up plenty of ramsons.
Whether you’ve foraged your own wild garlic or bought a bunch from a market, always wash it thoroughly before use. From a flavour point of view, it’s best used raw or cooked as little as possible as it loses its flavour on cooking. The Germans simply put a leaf on top of rye bread which has been liberally smeared with Schmaltz (a particularly luscious sort of dripping, liberally dotted with crispy bacon or onion) for an easy snack. It can be added to pizzas for an interesting topping or chopped into salads, omelettes or quiches to add colour and a hint of garlic flavour. Baked into bread it makes a milder alternative to the traditional garlic bread, and is also a cheap and cheerful as a garnish for soups, stews and risottos.
Pesto is one dish where wild garlic really does come into its own: simply crush the leaves with pine nuts, olive and Parmesan cheese. Or why not try the recipe below for a change?
50g ground almonds
100g wild garlic
20g grated Parmesan
2 dessertspoons olive oil
Roast the almonds in the oven until they colour up a little. Place them in a blender with the wild garlic, Parmesan and olive oil and blitz until combined. Season to taste with cayenne pepper and salt. Serve stirred into the cooked pasta of your choice.
So, if you’ve never tried wild garlic before, now is the time to get out and about and wake up to ramsons!