Redmond and Charles Stewart Parnell visited here.
Sean is a distant descendant. He’s a merry sort with a dash of gentry and a shock of Fagin hair. “My father was Irish and so I had some contact with Wicklow. I lived in Dorset and was involved in the organic movement since college developing quite a successful distribution business.” After selling up the business and moving here he was instrumental in setting up the Irish Farmer’s Markets. The spirit of openness and reinvention permeates his attitude towards having Bill here for the first time. “I once had a mushroom farm. We grew Paris Browns. We were the second organic mushroom farm in the UK in 1980.” When we catch up with Bill, he’s a little downbeat regarding the haul of the day. When I ask what he’s found, he say, “Fuck all, I found a cep. There’s some cortinarius… It’s all down to conditions on the day.” Beside him is Enda Williams, a cook from Kilkenny. He came on the walk after reading a Reddit article. He’s drawn to it from a “food perspective… Recently I came across JP McMahon’s Irish Cookbook and the “notion of all the things you can cook from foraging wowed me such as sea herbs, seaweed, fungi, the plethora of it all… he wants to look at the past to see how people ate.” When we return to base, there’s a healthier communal haul being spread out for Bill’s inspection. He peers through his glasses like a gemologist studying these diamonds of the soil before deciding what we can fry up and taste and discard. “That’s a summer cep the way they explode on the stem… we got some hedgehogs, good, do you see the spike like stubble… where did you find these? Past the waterfall? there’s a jelly baby (Leotia lubrica)… this is one of the many bracket fungi, I can’t be sure, it could be a Mazegill, they are basically like wood… we don’t have any purple deceivers, we just have the brown ones, they are edible… today I could only find one puffball…” I take Angela Healy who works with everything from “plants to planets” aside for a quick word. She set up a holistic skincare company called Willow Cottage in 2012 and is a shamanic practitioner also. “I use the planets to extract the healing properties of the plants into oils using solar and lunar energy and use those oils to make substance creams. Before that I was a chef for 20 years working with the Fitzer Group, the King Sitric in Howth, I opened one called the River Club (near arch at the Ha’Penny Bridge)… We are going through the rough shit now but we are moving into the age of Aquarius, its glyph are like two waves on top of each other which shows we can live side by side… we are being moved into our authentic self. There’s no othering… I work with all kinds of energies for healing and that is why I came on this looking for the healing elements of mushrooms.” 18