Poets, writers and weather forecasters alike, often describe winter as dark, dull and grey, and perhaps we too easily tend to picture this season in terms of its cold, muted tones, dead grasses and bare branches. But take another look on your winter walk and you’ll discover little gems and jewels of warm, rich colours that make such a welcome sight, especially on the bleakest of days.
Take dog rose hips for example: full-bodied, plump, berry-like fruits, which begin to form soon after the successful pollination of those delightful, soft pink and white flowers in spring and summer, ripening to blood-red to crimson fruits in autumn which last well into winter.
Long described throughout history, they are often referenced in folklore; in Germany the hips were said to be used by fairies to make themselves invisible.
Usually better after a frost or two, rose hips are edible (with hairs and seeds removed), providing a very rich source of Vitamin C; so much so that during World War II, when citrus fruits were in very short supply the British government encouraged the large-scale harvesting of rose hips for use a vitamin supplement.
For centuries the fruits have been used in many different recipes, the most common of which is probably rose hip syrup. Children would often earn a sixpence or similar for picking hips from the hedgerows.
To this day, traditional recipes are still used to make jellies, jams, tea and even soups.
Rosehip oil remains a popular skincare product, containing tissue-regenerating properties. As a result it's used to treat scarring and the stretch marks associated with pregnancy and giving birth.
Valuable to wildlife, the fruits are enjoyed by birds such as blackbirds, redwings and waxwings.
Look out for dog rose hips in hedgerows, along woodland edges and scrubland. These bright red fruits are a real joy to stop and admire on the darkest of winter days.