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In Green Living in Issue 01 ...

The importance of herbal medicine by Roger Oliver

Catering with seasonal food by Andrew Fleming

From Russia with hoe! by Vladimir Kondratyuk

Discovering a gem in the Chilterns by Alison Pao

Using natural and organic cleaners by Rob Bentley

Diary of a smallholder by Julia Irving

A winter walk in the Chilterns by Andrew Clark

The importance of herbal medicine

By Roger Oliver

The system of modern western herbal medicine is the culmination of some of the longest clinical trials in medical history. Just as other mammals seek out plants to help them when they feel unwell, ancient man, not to mention our more recent forebears, turned to the plant kingdom for remedies for all manner of ailments. As clinical trials go, there is minimal comparison with the modern so-called 'gold standard' of medical research, but the experience of countless generations of people must not be dismissed.

Complex range of chemicalsUnlike synthetic pharmaceuticals, which generally consist of molecules of one chemical, herbal medicines, such as ginger for example, contain hundreds of chemical compounds, so in fact there is no comparison – simplistic scientific approaches are barely relevant.

Herbs can be very effective at working with the body's healing processes rather than merely suppressing symptoms. Though side effects do occur, they tend to be much less extreme than those of modern drugs and what is much more frequent is the occurrence of side benefits. Going back to ginger, this can be used as a herbal remedy that may produce benefits in arthritis, and at the same have beneficial effects on the digestion.

This has essentially been a preamble to suggesting that recent and current attempts to regulate herbal medicine (the same applying to homeopathy) start from a false principle. This is the idea that the modern drug-based medical model is applicable to other systems for treating illness.

Medical herbalists must have a legal framework in which to practise their profession, because it is in the interests of everyone that herbal medicine should be allowed to continue and flourish. A proper system of registration would enable herbalists to practise within the NHS, which would both extend access to herbal medicine to everyone and probably save the government money.

Special Offer with this magazine:
Gingko Biloba: 7500mg 60 capsules
£2 off with this advertisement - now £8

27 High Street Chesham Bucks HP5 1BG
Tel: 01494 771267

Catering with seasonal food

By Andrew Fleming

Seasonal food is at the centre of our ethos at Seasons Catering. Our various seated and buffet menus vary markedly between the warmer and colder months. We love nothing more than writing menus around a particular style of cuisine.

Especially popular this year has been 'theatre food' – cooked or prepared in front of guests to create a focal point at an event. Lebanese lamb pitta wraps with tzatziki, assembled by chefs to order in the midst of a party inevitably leaves a lasting impression! Theatre food can translate into many dishes: wok stations with phad thai cooked fresh, or large paella pans with simmering sea food, chicken and chorizo – delicious!

Seasons FoodEqually exciting is the tapas style menu, starting with large wooden platters of serrano ham, parma ham, salami, chorizo, figs, manchego, quince, salted almonds, Catalan toasts (garlic and tomato rubbed crostini), olives, salted almonds, cornichons, breadsticks and white marinated anchovies. With its naturally interactive nature, this is an ideal menu for bringing people together over food. The menu moves on to other delights such as crispy chicken wings with romanesco sauce, pinchos (marinated pork brochettes) and gambas al ajillo (garlic and paprika king prawn skewers).

We truly enjoy being a part of our customers' celebrations of every kind. In the last year we've catered for a whole host of wonderful occasions:

  • Afternoon teas with vintage china
  • 21st birthday parties with canapés and cocktails
  • Corporate and community events
  • Children's parties
  • Hog roasts
  • Local school balls

We also attended the Henley Royal Regatta, hosting a corporate pop-up fine dining event: champagne, linen and silverware set up in a field by the river. A classic English summer event!

Our many years of experience in creating bespoke wedding menus always puts us in good stead. Choice, flexibility and originality are our keywords in combination with delicious food. Often, we help with the organisation and logistics of entire wedding days, from the sourcing of a band, florist and photographer, to the styling of the venue, table settings and lighting, all via our extensive list of local contacts.

For us, it's not all about big events – some of the most memorable and enjoyable occasions can be those spent just with those closest to you. How about an intimate dinner party in your own home, but with none of the stress of cooking? We work discreetly in the background, attending to the guests while allowing the host to sit back and enjoy everyone's company.

Seasons FoodEven if you just need a little helping hand with the nibbles, you can choose from our Seasons-to-go range. It offers starters, delicious hot buffet dishes, canapés, side dishes, desserts and more, ready for you to pop on to your own platters and serve! Another option is an anti-pasti tray, laden with hoummous, tzatziki, olives, crudités, vegetable crisps, bread sticks and sundried tomatoes – perfect for sharing amongst friends over a glass of wine.

The full Seasons-to-go menu can be found at our Seasons café-deli in Old Amersham or on our website: www.seasons-catering.com. We like to take a professional, yet friendly and enthusiastic approach to everything we do and our priority is to deliver a service that is personally tailored and within budget.

A love of great food is the bond we share with the team, our clients and our suppliers. In 2014 we look forward to creating more memorable events for our customers. We are passionate about what we do, and it shows.

Seasons Catering Co. Ltd,
4 Market Square, Old Amersham, Buckinghamshire HP7 0DQ
t: 01494 727807
e: food@seasons-catering.com

Using natural and organic cleaners

by Rob Bentley

Make a clean sweep without using harsh and harmful chemicals

Many household cleaning products are filled with chemicals that can be toxic to the environment, as well as to people. The ingredients in these cleaning products often end up in our waterways and leach into soils, with the potential to affect the health of our ecosystems. You might think that you are giving your family a healthy home environment, but many such chemicals are carcinogenic and endocrine disruptors.

The truth is that they are largely unnecessary and there are far safer and more effective methods for keeping your home clean. Take a look at the accompanying web-based article (see above) and you'll find that these potentially toxic chemicals are more than likely lurking in your cupboard:
Some of the toxic chemicals to look out for in your cleaning products are as follows:

  • Pesticides and disinfectants may contain endocrine disrupters alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs). APEs are employed as surfactants to help cleaning solutions spread more easily. These ingredients are fat-soluble, making them difficult to eliminate from the body once ingested.
  • Formaldehyde is a carcinogen and can be found in household cleaners and disinfectants.
  • Organochlorines are carcinogens and endocrine disruptors and can be found in pesticides, detergents, de-greasers and bleaches.
  • Styrene is a naturally occurring substance derived from the styrax tree. It is used in many plastic products and is also found in floor waxes, polishes and metal cleaners. Styrene is a known carcinogen as well as an endocrine disruptor. Exposure may affect the central nervous system, liver and reproductive system.
  • Phthalates are most commonly used in the manufacture of plastics. They are endocrine disruptors and suspected carcinogens. Phthalates are known to cause hormonal abnormalities, thyroid disorders, birth defects and reproductive problems.

Create a toxic free cleaning kit - fight the bad bugs with good bugs !

Let Miessence help you harness the power of nature to create a pure and fresh living environment without harsh and potentially toxic chemicals.

Start using BioPure Probiotic Multi-purpose Cleaning Concentrate in your home. It is a highly concentrated probiotic cleaning liquid that is fragranced with organic vanilla fruit extract and contains beneficial bacteria to regenerate and repopulate your work surfaces and bathroom with healthy bacteria that are harmless to us. This is in total contrast to anti-bac cleaners which attempt to kill the "baddies" and leave surfaces free of ALL bacteria. This can result in a free-for-all for any opportunistic bacteria to breed and multiply.

The probiotic properties of BioPure ensures it is safe for humans and the environment, and uniquely effective as a surface active agent to ionize and digest organic matter for cleaning and odour reduction. It can be used safely in septic systems and is fully biodegradable. Use just 2 capfuls (10ml) diluted in water and then spray on surfaces. Once diluted Biopure will stay alive and active for 30 days although the 125ml concentrate will last for months!

The Miessence homecare range also includes a natural "anti-bac" olive oil and coconut oil based hand-soap that uses lemon myrtle essential oil to naturally cleanse and purify. EVERY home should have these in their bathrooms and kitchens! Miessence also have a readily biodegradable dishwashing concentrate based exclusively on renewable raw materials and green chemistry principles.

In addition to the Miessence Home Care range keep the following natural and organic ingredients in your home to make a clean sweep of those household chores –

  • bicarbonate of soda
  • vinegar
  • tea tree oil
  • essential oils of lemon, lavender and clove

Bathroom Mould: Vinegar is effective against most bathroom mould as is the highly effective antiseptic, antimicrobial, Tea Tree Oil. Follow up with regular applications of Miessence Biopure Probiotic Household Cleaning Concentrate to conquer the problem for good.

Cream Cleanser: In a jar pour 1/2 cup of bicarbonate of soda and enough Miessence Biodegradable Dishwashing Concentrate to make a paste with the consistency of icing. Great for cleaning stove stops, sinks and bathrooms. Once clean, wipe surface over with a damp cloth.

Window and Glass Cleaner: In a spray bottle mix up the following - 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of Miessence Biodegradable Dishwashing Concentrate to 3 tablespoons of vinegar and add 2 cups of water. The detergent will help cut through grease while the vinegar will leave a streak free shine.

Make your home a haven with Miessence. The power of Mother Nature is in your hands with the Miessence range of effective, environmentally friendly, fully biodegradable products. They are 100% free of chemical nasties. Their concentrated formulas are economical to use and great value. Purifying, environmentally friendly essential oils, beneficial bacteria and ultra-mild ecological cleaners will make light work of your everyday cleaning chores.


Exclusive offer: To encourage Designs For Life readers to experience the purity, potency and freshness of Miessence, there's a 20% discount and organic free gift on all orders over £35, only when placed via our website


Simply use the promo code: DFL20 at the checkout.

Non-toxic Cleaning Products

See Green Living in our Issue 02 ...

Discovering a gem in the Chilterns

by Alison Pao

When I was a full time Planting and Garden Designer, I wouldn't dream of going anywhere for my plants other than Rowan Garden Centre in Chalfont St Giles. When the owner was about to retire, I couldn't resist the temptation of taking it on myself.

Rowan doesn't pretend to be one of the big players in the garden centre world. Located in a country lane and flanked by fields, it is a refreshing rural destination for plants, garden merchandise and gifts. There is an Equine Essentials shop on site, and Seasons Café @ Rowan, overlooking grazing horses.

If you haven't visited before, why not come and see our Christmas stock (there's a discount voucher below for 2nd to 15th December). You'll see the display of seasonal plants, gift ideas and Christmas trees and decorations.

Rowan offers:
A great range of Christmas trees, both cut and pot grown, trimmed to fit your stand. Delivery available.

Christmas treats at Seasons Café @ Rowan.

A wide range of pots and winter flowering plants.

A shop with garden essentials and great gift ideas.

Rowan Garden Centre Ltd
Gorelands Lane
Chalfont St Giles
Bucks HP8 4AB
01494 872335

20% off Christmas gifts 2-15 December 2013 excluding
Xmas trees. Full terms & conditions available


From Russia with hoe!

By Vladimir Kondratyuk

The Russians are coming, but we come in peace, armed only with ingeniously engineered tools. Join the revolution! Our success was not an overnight one. The improved ideas for soil productivity that we bring are based on a long history of highly productive, small scale food production in Russia, the results of decades of evolution, which are still being fine-tuned. With allotment gardening and 'growing-your-own' regaining worldwide popularity, especially in the UK, it seemed only natural to want to share the benefits of our products with this huge army of green-fingered enthusiasts.

Gardening toolsEvery gardener needs a basic set of gardening tools. Our Ploskorez (meaning 'flat cutting blade') range of long-handled cultivating and weeding hoes stands out from conventional small-scale soil tilling implements. The tools have been developed with three main principles in mind:

  • Protection of the body from injury
  • Prevention of harm to the soil and its micro-environment
  • Preservation of the crops in the best condition

They allow for various non-bending techniques which minimize backache, whilst allowing for the breaking up and smoothing out of the the topsoil, the further breaking up of clods to provide a finer soil structure suitable for seedbeds, the forming of rows and beds, and the planting and covering of seeds after sowing – all without a need to turn the soil over.

Using these methods, no harm is caused to the good soil micro-organisms, keeping the most fertile top layer of soil where it should be – on top! An online review from customer Patsy Davies describes the 'Swage' tool: 'When used flat this works very well as a draw hoe (including drawing soil up over potatoes etc.) In addition it can be used vertically to peck out individual stubborn weeds and as an alternative to hand weeding. I found it especially good for breaking up the hard crust that sometimes forms on my clay soil which prevents water penetrating. The light weight and shape of the tool make it easy to do this without disturbing the plants. It could be used for initial cultivation and would be valuable to a gardener who didn't have the strength to use a mattock or other heavy tool.'

Inevitably, effective tools produce excellent results and we encourage you to try out this range of ingenious and versatile, multifunctional hand-held cultivators and weeders for yourself. Ask your local garden centre to stock the tools for you, or order them online below, using the magazine discount code.

Vladimir's story

This project was inspired by people I met over in Germany – enthusiasts of the ingenious tools originating in Russia and widely used there. When I saw the tools and the demonstration they immediately appealed to me for use on my allotment in Pinner. For the 22 years that I've lived here in the UK, I've always been a keen gardener.

I called the manufacturer and spoke to the director of s-Ploskorez, Oleg Freedman, who agreed to appoint me the sole UK importer. There and then I bought a small stock of 100 tools and brought them to this country for the first time.

In the meantime, I shared the good news with my parents and showed them the Russian manufacturer's website, where Oleg Freedman was featured in the demonstration videos. My mother immediately recognised him as her cousin on her mother's side, who she had heard of but never met! The next day we had an exciting re-union over a three-way video Skype call. Obviously, my mum and uncle had more to talk about than myself, but I have since had the benefit of working in a family business!

Stockists in the Chilterns:
Rowan Garden Centre, Chalfont St Giles
Taylors Tools, Kings Langley
The Mediterranean Nursery, Bovingdon
Chenies Manor, near Chorleywood
Greenbloom Growers, Hemel Hempstead

Special Offer:
Get 10% off all these tools (costing between £24.99 and £29.99 each) with Designs for Life magazine using the code 'DFL' at our website

You can contact us on: 01923 624158
email: info@ploskorez.co.uk

Diary of a smallholder

By Julia Irving

Autumn arrived suddenly at Half Cut Farm (our affectionate name for our collective lands at Pednor). I should explain that the 'farm' consists of a field (half mown, half meadow – hence the name), two gardens (one little, one large), a recently acquired allotment (waiting to be tackled), 6 geese, 13 chickens and two hairy lurchers. So not a farm at all, rather a rag tag of places where we can grow things.

After a very warm, but dry summer the temperature dropped and so did the runner beans and egg production. However the courgettes have put on a spectacular sprint finish and the expectant pumpkins' bellies are swelling. The tomatoes in the greenhouse are ripening every day but those outside have been stunned into silence by the cold snap.

The main problem this summer was water. Getting it to where it was needed on a regular basis proved to be a challenge. The rain butts were empty and we try to be as 'off grid' as possible, so there were lots of very parched plants. The main casualties were the 200 beech saplings we planted last winter to form some hedging. The Christmas trees have survived with no extra help from us and will be ready for the festive season in … 2025. Good things come to those who wait! The brussels sprouts have also thrived on neglect, despite losing most of their leaves to an army of hungry caterpillars; the little nuggets of loveliness are nestling close to their stem waiting for the smell of turkey.

Waiting for the cock to crow

It's been a fantastic year for fruit and the wild harvest this year has been plentiful. Field mushrooms, blackberries, hazelnuts, elderberries and sloes (pick them before the birds do and freeze them overnight to fake the first frost) have all featured in the kitchen recently. We have a bumper apple crop and so do our neighbours who are more than happy for us to scrump from their orchard.

The sly fox celebrated the harvest by harvesting one of our 7 (now 6) geese. Her mate is heartbroken and her forlorn honks can be heard across the valley. She calls for her BFF all day and night. The chickens have managed to escape the sly fox's attentions so far by remaining behind the 7 foot, fox proof fencing. Buttercup Bantam is sitting on some eggs – her second brood of the year. She is a wonderful Mum and her four offspring are now bigger than she is. She hatched two cockerels, a hen and one … well we just aren't sure yet. At first we thought it was male and, but now we will have to wait for the tell tale crow. Until then, we are keeping our fingers crossed that she clucks instead.

A winter walk in the Chilterns

This walk was planned and tested by Andrew Clark

A circular walk from The Forge car park in Tring which incorporates some interesting historical points along the way. Download this walk

A walk around Tring

Start: The Forge car park, High Street, Tring HP23 5AH

Distance: 4.2 miles

Terrain: Easy walking on paths and lanes, with c130m of ascent over the length of the walk

Maps: OS Explorer 181 and Chiltern Society 18. Note that on some older maps the Ridgeway Path is shown as a different route near Wigginton

Refreshments: None on the walk, plenty in Tring.

History and points of interest

Tring is a smal market town lying at the edge of the Chiltern Hills, where the Roman Akeman Street meets the ancient Icknield Way. Probably the most famous resident of the town was Lionel Walter Rothschild, whose family bought the Wren designed Tring Mansion in 1872.

Natural History Museum: Rothschild was a keen naturalist and built a private zoological museum. It contained one of the largest natural history collections in the world. In 1937 the Rothschild family gave the museum and its contents to the nation and it became part of the Natural
History Museum.

Stubbings Wood: A Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and one of the best examples in Hertfordshire of ancient semi-natural beech woodland.

Hastoe Village: Probably first recorded in the 13th century and most notably connected with the Rothschild family. On the right along Church Lane is the magnificent village hall built by the Rothschilds in 1898. Nearby is the highest point in Hertfordshire, standing at just over 800ft.

The Ridgeway and Tring Park: The Ridgeway has been described as Britain's oldest road and is thought to have connected the Dorset coast to the Wash. Opened in 1973, it is now an 87 mile National Trail. Tring Park dates back to 1066. For centuries it was linked to the manor of
Tring and eventually became part of the Estate. In 1937 the Rothschild family sold the Estate but kept the Park. When it was threatened with development, it was bought by Dacorum Borough Council and leased to the Woodland Trust.

The Summer House and obelisk: Both monuments are thought to have been designed by James Gibbs, who was also responsible for
St Martins in the Fields. They are reputed to have been dedicated to Nell Gwynn who, local legend says, is supposed to have visited the Park with Charles II.

The Chiltern Society

The Chiltern Society is a local charity with 6,800 members. It is one of the largest environmental groups in England directly associated with the conservation of some of the country's finest protected landscapes. The objective of the charity is to care for the Chilterns, to encourage people to explore this beautiful landscape and to conserve it for future generations.

It has over 400 active volunteers who protect the Chilterns' heritage landscapes, buildings and rivers, maintain Chiltern footpaths and bridleways, publish footpath maps, lead walks, cycle rides and photographic trips, and do conservation work on ponds , commons and woodland. For details of the charity's work and its programme of walks, cycle rides and conservation groups open to all.

Tel: 01494 771250

Download this walk

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