Welcome to the Ffern podcast, As the Season Turns. Created in collaboration with Lia Leendertz, author of The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide, the podcast is now in its third edition. Released on the first of the month, each episode follows the changing landscape of the seasons - from the moon and the stars, to the tides and the trees.
In a Found Sound for February, Alice Boyd visits Norfolk to record the songs of late winter birds, travelling from woodland to wetland to ocean. Settle in for a relaxing ten minutes that will help you feel part of nature, wherever you are. This episode was produced by musician and sound artist Alice Boyd, featuring music by herself and The Breath. Thanks go to RSPB Warden Ben Lewis.
For February, we tell tales of birds and bad weather - and explore whose songs we might hear in the ancient woodland. The Breath sing 'Don't Rush It', reminding us to slow down during this short month, while elsewhere we visit peatlands and cook seasonal recipes from the garden.
In a Found Sound for January, Alice Boyd visits Dartmoor to record the sounds of this wild place. Walking the windswept tors and woodlands, Alice explores the landscape's natural history, and looks towards its future. Settle in for a relaxing ten minutes that will help you feel part of nature, wherever you are. This episode was produced by musician and sound artist Alice Boyd, featuring music by herself and The Breath. Thanks go to Luke and Caroline of Collihole Farm.
For our first episode of 2024 we look at names for January, old and new. The ancient woodland is deep in its winter silence, but we find signs of life in glittering wood moss. Zoe Gilbert tells frosty tales and we hear the Romani story of 'Mossycoat' - while elsewhere we welcome Ríoghnach Connolly and Stuart McCallum of The Breath as this year's guest musicians.
For the 2023 edition of As the Season Turns, folk singer Gwilym Bowen Rhys selected and recorded a Welsh traditional song for each month of the year. We have now gathered these songs into an album, so they can be enjoyed together - Caneuon y Flwyddyn, or Songs for the Year. Mastered for Ffern by Geoff Bird. Artwork by Gemma Koomen. © Gwilym Bowen Rhys. Album release date: 31 December 2023
Our final episode of 2023 explores the sleepy but still vibrant natural world of December - from newts and frogs hibernating in the garden pond to colourful toadstools in the woods. Alice visits the Cairngorms in Scotland to retrace the steps of nature writer Nan Shepherd, while we mark the winter solstice and watch the Geminids meteor shower. To close, we hear one last Welsh folksong from Gwilym Bowen Rhys, the very old Christmas carol 'Ar fore dydd nadolig'.
In November, we get up before dawn to watch the stars and stay out past sunset to light bonfires for Samhain. In between, we head to Dorset for some birdwatching, to Sussex for people watching and out into the lanes to pick hawthorn berries and sloes. At the end of the day, we sit by the fire and hear a comforting song about home, 'Cartref', sung by Gwilym Bowen Rhys.
In October's episode we visit a 'ghost' island, explore the history of trick or treating, and hunt for mushrooms and dryads in the woods. Hedgehogs and frogs are preparing for their winter sleeps, and Gwilym sings 'Y wasgod goch', the red waistcoat - the spookiest song he knows.
For September we hear the tale of Ganesh and the moon. We visit the Farne Isles, perform rituals to mark the equinox and head to Cornwall for one last day at the beach. Gwilym sings a threshing song and we gather herb robert from the hedgerows.
In August's episode we wander country lanes at night - coming across glow worms, observing the Milky Way, and hearing the haunting love song 'Gwen Lliw'r Lili', or 'Gwen the Colour of the Lily'. We visit the rivers of the Peak District, explore the uses of meadowsweet and climb the cliffs of St Kilda.
For July we go stargazing during the dog days, hear the Cornish myth of Lyonesse and swim along mackerel migration routes. Zoe goes searching for wild roses, Alice visits a Somerset rewilding site and Gwilym sings 'Moliannwn', a joyous song that's often sung in the pub.
In June, Lia marks the summer solstice with gift giving and a ritual. The waterlilies are out in the pond and life under the surface is thriving - as Alice finds when when she dips her microphone beneath the water at Wakehurst Botanic Garden. Zoe explores the folklore of St John's Wort for midsummer and Gwilym closes with a rendition of 'Daw hyfryd fis', a round featuring a familiar June bird.
For May, Lia visits the island of Skomer to explore its distinctive and abundant wildlife, and Alice stays overnight in the National Forest. We listen to nightingales and the dawn chorus, and hear a Mayday wassail from Gwilym. Zoe delves into the folklore of stitchwort and Lia looks out for seasonal plants in the garden.
In April's episode we learn about different degrees of sunrise, plant hardy annuals and make nests for bees. Zoe has foraged for Lady's Mantle, while in the pond the newts are out and about. Alice heads to Dover to record the sea, and we hear an Easter recipe for pace eggs. Gwilym plays 'Blodau'r flwyddyn', an example of 'old verses' - thousands of verses that can be fitted together in different combinations, all to the same melody.
For March, Lia begins with the equinox and ends with the phases of the moon. Zoe explores the mythology of seaweed and we visit a very special island in North Wales. Also in Wales, we hear the story of Blodeuwedd and Gwilym plays a very old love song, 'Lisa lân'. Lia goes back to seventeenth-century England to tell the little-known tale of the Diggers, and Alice heads underwater with her hydrophone.
February's episode explores the first, tiny shoots of spring - the snowdrops are opening, the frogs are breeding and Lia reminds us it's time to plant this year's chillis. We visit the Isles of Scilly for early narcissi, and the Mendip Hills for a rainstorm with Alice Boyd. Zoe Gilbert records her thoughts on snowdrops, and to close, Gwilym Bowen Rhys sings 'Ambell i gân', a song to guard against heartbreak and bad weather.
For January, we explore the magic of a winter sunrise. We break the ice on the garden pond and head to the park for a snowy soundscape recorded by Alice Boyd. Meanwhile, novelist Zoe Gilbert has much to tell about mugwort, and we visit Shetland for Up Helly Aa. To close, Gwilym Bowen Rhys plays 'Teg wawriodd boreddydd', a Welsh carol for the new year.
December's episode features a tree dressing ritual to light the winter dark. We spend a final moment with our oak tree and beehive, and hear some pointers for planting evergreen shrubs. We hear about Holda, an ancient winter goddess, listen to the songs of tiny wrens and mark the winter solstice.
For November, we lean into the darkening days with a focus on colourful leaves, bonfires and a bright bird of the month - the starling. We plant tulips, visit the Bridgwater Carnival and catch a glimpse the dark side of the moon.
In October, our oak tree's leaves are turning brown and beginning to fall. We revisit the bee hive as it prepares for winter, share a recipe for soul cakes, and explore traditions around Samhain. This month's candlelit ritual is for Halloween night - and in the meantime, look out for mushrooms, the season's finest fruit.
In September's episode, we consider the 'new year' feel of the month and celebrate the Harvest Moon. We go foraging for damsons and visit Britain's estuaries to look for wading birds. Jupiter is bright in the sky above, and this month's ritual helps us find balance as we move into Libra season.
In our August episode, we find out why leaves get darker as summer progresses. We hear the story of Lugh and the harvest and set intentions for the final third of the year in a breadmaking ritual. Up above, there is lots to see in the night sky; down below, we give some flower garden tips and visit our beehive.
For July, we explore the folk tradition of the Rose Queen. We mark the weather on St Swithin's Day, check in with the beehive and pick sweetpeas from the flower garden. The Wort Moon rises over July's rich greenery. And in the warm nights, we head outside for a spot of stargazing.
In our June episode, gooseberries are ripening in the kitchen garden, our birds of the month are cooing from the treetops and the beehive is entering its busiest and most prosperous season. We perform a love ritual, explore the traditions surrounding midsummer bonfires and ask why the midsummer moon is low while the midwinter moon is high.
In May's episode, our oak tree is finally in leaf! We investigate Maytime traditions, make elderflower mead from Finland and anticipate a total lunar eclipse. This month's ritual involves bathing your face in pre-dawn dew; and we set out some tips for your flower garden and hanging baskets.
For April, we search for signs of spring - brimstone butterflies, wild garlic, cuckoos. A Ukrainian folk tale explains why April weather is so volatile, while this month's ritual might help you come to terms with the flashes of rain and sunshine that characterise this time of year.
For our March episode, we climb high into the sky with our bird of the month, the skylark. We make a pilgrimage to the Isles of Scilly and look for boxing hares. We check in with our oak tree as it prepares for spring and we perform our own springtime ritual: gifting seeds for the equinox.
In February's episode, we make a St Brigid's Day pilgrimage from Faughart to Kildare, exploring the links between Brigid, Imbolc and Candlemas. We plant bulbs 'in the green', find out what's in season and check in with our oak tree, who is providing safe harbour for some bright winter visitors.
For our first episode of 2022, we begin a year-long acquaintance with the English oak. We head inside the beehive, explore the history of wassailing, and follow the epic migration of the humpback whale. We find out what's in season and check in with winter's brightest bird: the robin. Wassailing Words: “Here’s to thee, old apple-tree, Whence thou may’st bud, and whence thou may’st blow, And whence thou may’st bear apples enow Hats full! caps full! Bushel-bushel-sacks full, And my pockets full, too, huzza!”
For December, we go carolling for the full moon and enjoy the midwinter charm of Christmas roses. We make a pilgrimage to Stone Henge for the winter solstice, follow the redwing's migration patterns, and touch upon the different types of frost.
For our colourful November episode, we celebrate winter's brightest flowers, chrysanthemums. We share a recipe for bonfire toffee apples, explore nature's November fireworks - the Leonids meteor shower - and spend time with the remarkable Atlantic salmon, who will be swimming upriver this month.
For October, we follow the vast, though little understood migration of the European eel. We hear the tale of Merlin's apples, ponder why October's full moon is known as the Hunter's Moon, and wonder when the first frosts will reach us.
In September's episode, we track the slow drift into autumn. Hearing a tale of Ganesh and the moon, we explore the names for September's full moon, the Harvest Moon. We visit the border between France and Switzerland for a very special cheese, follow the migrations of Nathusius' pipistrelle bats, and encounter the spirit of the corn.
For our August episode, we trace the epic migrations of dragonflies along with the rasping music of the grasshopper chorus. We discuss the wonders of the Perseids meteor shower (look up on the 13th and 14th of this month) and walk through a garden meditation for August.
In this episode, we celebrate the rich offerings of July, the 'Month of the Hay'. We check in on the hedgerows, discover the delights of oxeye daisies, and explore what's happening in the skies this month, reflecting on the names for July's full moon.
For our June episode, we plan for summer. We revisit the dormice and hedgehogs we saw nesting in earlier months, hear of the epic migrations of painted lady butterflies, learn about the best methods for making jam and explore the folk traditions surrounding midsummer.
For the May episode of our podcast, we explore the changing hedgerows, the traditions and folklore surrounding May Day, how primroses can help to ward off fairies, the return of the swallows and the names of the month's full moons: Mother’s Moon, Bright Moon and Flower Moon.
For April, we explore the traditional names for the month, the changing hedgerows, the beauty of the bluebell, how to navigate by the crescent moon and why decorated eggs came to be associated with Easter.
For the March episode, we explore the traditional names for the month, the moons and the tides, the types of nest each bird is building, how to help hedgehogs as they emerge from hibernation and the history and folklore surrounding the humble daffodil.
For February, we explore the Romani name for the month, why it is the time for plans and new beginnings, the blue tit’s mating rituals, the migration of the toad and the moons that will grace our night sky. Each of the monthly chapters in Lia’s almanac ends with a folk song - for February Lia brings one to life, singing a traditional shanty.