Brenda Graham was born in Carlisle and lived in the small hamlet of Rocky House which is near Boltongate, near Cockermouth until she was eight, when the family moved to Cockermouth. Brenda’s father was headmaster of the school at Ireby and Brenda remembers the countryside around her home in Rocky House, in particular the wild flowers which she and her father used to collect and press. She also remembers how everything which could be used – for food, for clothing, even for jewellery – was put to good use, including the many edible wild plants ranging from young hawthorn leaves (‘bread and cheese’) to wild watercress. She is pleased that many of the wild flowers which she remembers can now be seen again and that kingfishers, heron and otters have reappeared on the River Caldew, following the closure of the mills and factories which used to pollute the river.
‘Hawthorn leaves when they’re first coming out are quite delicious, they are known as bread and cheese and a thing called pig nuts, which is a plant that grows in the hedgerows and the fields and when you pull it up it’s got sort of a bulby thing on the bottom. It’s not a bulb and it’s just like a nut, you can clean it and skin it and it’s absolutely delicious to eat, just very, very, nutty flavour.’