The very best of May

The month ahead


Frothy white hawthorn flowers make hedgerows look as if they’re laden with snow. Swooping swallows, swifts and martins confirm that spring is here. Yellow brooms, buttercups, jack-by-the-hedge and cuckoo flowers emerge above the growing cover, which is now high enough to hide nesting wild grey partridge. In the uplands, grouse hatch in mid May. Tiny and fluffy at first, they look like bumblebees buzzing about in the heather, but soon grow into hardy birds.

Quiz of the month

1. After which Greek goddess
is the month of May named?
2. What was the first thing many young girls used to do on May Day morning?
3. How did Oak Apple Day originate?

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Asparagus, Jersey Royals, wild strawberries, chicory and morels

Start with warm asparagus and Jersey Royals

Move onto

morel risotto with chicory salad


with wild-strawberry tart


Elderflower cordial
20-30 elderflower heads
31⁄2Ib of sugar
3 pints of boiled water, cooled
2oz tartaric acid
2-4 lemons, washed and sliced

Shake the flower heads to get rid of any insects, then place all the ingredients in a large, clean pan and stir regularly for 24 hours, before straining through muslin and pouring into glass bottles that have been sterilised via a hot wash in the dishwasher. Dilute to taste with water or sparkling mineral water. The cordial is ready to use, but will keep for several months if stored in a cool, dark place. Once opened, keep in the fridge.

Get away

To The Montagu Arms at Beaulieu in Hampshire’s New Forest for first-class fishing on the Test and Michelin-starred dining (01590 612324; www.montaguarms, rooms from £228 per night).

Walk this way

Follow the river from The Montagu Arms (waymarked Solent Way along the gravel track next to the hotel) to Buckler’s Hard. Covering some five miles, the route will take approximately 21⁄2 hours.

The month in words

‘And she was fayr as is the rose in May’

Geoffrey Chaucer, The Legend of Good Women

Jobs in the garden

* Start cutting asparagus-gather the most advanced from each plant daily from now on, but stop at the start of June to let the fern grow
* Plant French beans-drop three seeds into each hole, thinning to one when they emerge
* Mulch-apply a good layer (at least a couple of inches) of organic material, nudged under the crowns and around the stems KBH

What’s on

May 1-6 Cheltenham Jazz Festival (
May 2 Symphonic Rock at the Royal Albert Hall, London (
May 2-6 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, Gloucestershire (
May 10-12 RHS Malvern Spring Gardening Show (
May 21-25 RHS Chelsea Flower Show (
May 29-June 1 The Royal Bath and West Show, Somerset (
May 1 Padstow ‘Obby ‘Oss May Day Festival ( chance to see
‘Roy Lichtenstein’, Tate Modern, London, until May 27 (
‘Collecting Abroad for the V&A, 1851-1914′, V&A, London, until May 26 (
Book now
Wales v New Zealand Autumn Rugby Union International, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, on November 24
Don’t miss
The Telegraph Hay Festival, May 23-June 2 (


The Darling Buds of May by H. E. Bates

A Shropshire Lad and Other Poems by A. E. Housman

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