Trees laden with berries means a hard winter- Old wives tale or not?

This year I’ve noticed trees almost falling over with holly and hawthorn berries and the pantry is stocked with rosehip syrup (see the recipe below). Even more remarkable,  there are strawberries on the plants that fruited in May and we’re still eating blackberries. If the old wives tale is true, we could be in for a hard winter.

I find old wives tales a great way to spark discussion about children’s world views. Is mother nature cleverly provisioning for her creatures ahead of a long cold winter? Was our sunny spring and slightly wetter late summer just perfect for berry production? What do we think the impact of climate change will be on berries and winter temperatures?

Testing the hypothesis

If you have the children for the whole year ask them to write down their prediction and rationale for the type of winter we may have. They can use pictures rather than words if they prefer.  The children I work with love to look back later in the year and see if they were right. Ask them how many years they think the berry method would need to be right for, before you could trust it to predict the weather?

Climate or Weather

Furthermore, this a is good way exploring the difference between climate and weather covered in the KS2 curriculum. Ask the children to think if there is any truth in the old saying red sky at night shepherds delight, red sky in the morning shepherds warning?  What do they think the basis of this saying is?

Provisioning for the winter

As for provisioning for the winter how about making some rosehip syrup to have some vitamin c when there aren’t any berries left on the trees? Below is a recipe I use. This year I did it in the kitchen but if you have enough equipment you could do it on the fire. Just sterilize the bottles in the morning and keep the lids on them until the children are ready to fill them.

Rosehip Syrup Recipe

Rosehip Syrup recipe is packed with hedgerow goodness and makes a lovely cordial to share at Forest School.

Rosehips contain twenty times more vitamin C than oranges. Hence why, the British government  encouraged citizens to make rosehip syrup during World War Two.


1kg rosehip: You can use either the small Dog rose (Rosa canina) or the larger Japanese rose (Rosa rugosa), both have excellent flavour.

3 litres of water

500g dark brown soft sugar

Rosehip Syrup Recipe – Instructions

Bring to the boil 2 litres of water.

Chop rosehips until mashed up. Make sure you wear gloves as the tiny hairs they contain are an irritant. Add the mashed hips to boiling water.

Bring water back to the boil, then remove from heat and allow to steep for 20 minutes.

Pour rosehips and liquid into a scalded jelly bag or through a sieve lined with a cheese cloth or muslin and allow the juice to drip through. Gently squeeze the jelly bag, or muslin to extract as much liquid as possible. Be careful not to rip the bag.

Add the pulp back to a saucepan containing 1 litre of water and bring back to the boil. Then remove from heat and allow the contents to steep for another 20 minutes before straining through the jelly bag as in Step 3.

Add sugar to the strained rosehip liquid and dissolve, allow to simmer for five minutes, before pouring into sterilised bottles.

Makes: Approximately 2 litres