Two years ago I 'did' the camino pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Since then we have been through a global pandemic and well, I have done nothing.

I've had spates of exercise: zoom yoga, walks on Hampstead Heath (which at times resembled Oxford Street), a half-hearted attempt to 'jog' which lasted a week. Mostly I've completed Netflix.

The lack of a structured timetable, always a problem for the freelancer (pyjamas and an apron are my working uniform of choice), was starting to get to me. I was going a bit bonkers, getting nothing done.

So on the spur of the moment, I rammed my camino gear and a pop-up tent into my car and drove up to Hadrian's Wall. I was going to walk it West to East, (the best way as the wind is at your back), 84 miles of wild crags and heather, discovering Roman Britain.

The wall traverses Cumbria and Northumberland where the local specialities are Cumberland sausage, beer, baps and barms, hearty filling food. I'd made some hiking snacks, designed to keep you going: a recipe for (gluten-free, sugar-free) breakfast bars and some home-made mint cake.

The hedgerows are positively heaving with berries and the fields were lined with rows of blackthorn shrubs, also known as sloes. (A great trick for identifying hedgerow fruits is to use the Google app, not the search engine, to take a picture and do a reverse image search.)

Ham & High: Foraged berries can be made into several dishesForaged berries can be made into several dishes (Image: Kerstin Rodgers)

Walking into Carlisle I bought gin, sugar, a wide-necked container and 'borrowed' a colander which I used to rinse the sloes in the disabled bathroom. In the car park I popped the berries into the neck of the empty container, poured in enough sugar to cover, and topped it up gradually with gin. I sealed the container and left it for the 10 days I was on the walk. I was concerned that they would over-ferment in the hot car during that time. Usually sloe gin takes six weeks but it was ready when I returned to my car. Nearing Newcastle I came across wild plums and sea buckthorn berries. These I made into a tangy but lightly sweet compote, to be spooned over yoghurt or ice cream.

Sloe Gin

Ham & High: Make your own sloe gin from foraged ingredientsMake your own sloe gin from foraged ingredients (Image: Kerstin Rodgers)


50 cl gin
150 g sugar
450 g sloe berries, stems removed


Using a clean wide mouthed jar, add your washed sloes. (Usually you prick each one but I didn't bother) Top up with sugar then slowly pour in the gin, shaking the container so that the air bubbles escape. Leave until it tastes good.

Oat Energy Bar (serves 12)

Ham & High: Oat energy barOat energy bar (Image: Kerstin Rodgers)

Feel free to replace hazelnuts with other nuts or seed, and the dried fruits with those of your choice.


100 g butter
100 g honey
25 g dried pineapple, cut into thin strips
handful sultanas
2 bananas, thickly sliced
50 g desiccated coconut
150 g rolled oats
big pinch sea salt
1 tsp vanilla paste


Preheat the oven to 160C. Grease a 20 x 30cm tin and line with parchment.
Melt the butter in a medium pan on a low heat, then add the honey.
Mix the rest of the ingredients into a bowl.
Add the dry ingredients into the butter and honey, stirring.
Pour into the tin and bake for 20 minutes.
Leave to cool and cut into bars. They can be wrapped individually in greaseproof paper or frozen for later use.

Original Mint Cake

Ham & High: Mint CakeMint Cake (Image: Kerstin Rodgers)

Kendal mint cake is the celebrated Cumbrian energy snack for walks in the Lake District. It was even taken up Everest. Today it is made with glucose syrup but the original recipe uses milk, low heat and relentless stirring.


450 g sugar
150 ml milk
several drops of peppermint or spearmint essence
Mint leaves to decorate (optional)


Mix the milk and sugar in a small saucepan. Over a low heat, stir until the sugar is melted. Keep stirring continuously until the mixture thickens and steam is coming off the top (about 15 minutes).
Pour into a greased cake tin. Leave to cool, pressing in a few mint leaves if desired.

Hedgerow Compote

Ham & High: A compote made from foraged plumsA compote made from foraged plums (Image: Kerstin Rodgers)


Wild plums and sea buckthorn berries however many you forage!
Caster sugar to cover the fruit


Cover the washed foraged fruit with sugar and leave overnight.
Put into a pan and simmer until the fruit has partially broken down.
Prepare a clean jar and pour in the compote. It'll last a couple of weeks in the fridge.