I rarely feel nervous on the morning of our walks. Today was an exception.
I organised our lavender tour with The Hop Shop back in May, knowing that the UK lavender season extends from June to August. The main harvest for oil is towards the end of July but usually occurs in early August.
This summer the UK has been experiencing an extended heatwave and Kent has been blasted with highs of 37 degrees with no rain for almost 2 months. This has a huge affect on the lavender as it speeds up the budding of the flowers and leads to an early harvest – not good news for our tour booked in late July!
I had been following @thehopshop on Instagram and discovered that not only had the harvest started, but the lavender was being cut at a rapid rate. I desperately wanted my group of walkers to have a memorable tour and feared the disappointment if they were greeted by empty fields of cut lavender. There would be no beautiful spread of purple colour or fragrant smell or busy bees.
You have probably guessed from the photos on this page that we were successful in seeing a field of flowering lavender. It was not only the vast expanse of purple that was satisfying to view, but the strong almost addictive smell in every breath you take.
During our tour a harvester appeared from the farm and turned into our field. A trailer was attached to the back of this huge machine. It would hold 6 tonnes of lavender flowers before being steamed to extract the oil from each individual flower. We were later informed that the harvester had broken down the day before which saved the last field from being cut until our tour slot!
Our tour leader Sarah delivered an informative and fun introduction to lavender and its uses. Lavender and Lavendin are grown and have very different properties and uses. It is commonly know that Lavender – Lavandula angustifolia helps you to relax and de-stress. It can also be used as an antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and it can help to soothe headaches and tension. Lavendin – Lavandula x intermedia on the other hand is actually a mild stimulant and can be used to envigorate and energise. It has a different chemical profile and can therefore be used to aid breathing, freshen cloths and ease tired and aching muscles. You should not put this variety in your evening bath!
I was surprised to hear that The Hop Shop at Castle Farm is the largest lavender farm in the UK with 75 acres of the fragrant crop. When the lavender season has finished the farm stays busy harvesting various crops, picking apples, hops, pumpkins and preparing for Christmas. There will be plenty of opportunities for us to return to The Hop Shop now that the lavender has gone.
To visit The Hop Shop and for more information go to www.hopshop.co.uk