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After starting life as a fully trained Design Draughtsman then running my own business for nearly 20 years, I have fulfilled my desire to return to my first love of designing. Coupled with my second love of gardens, I retrained at the renowned Oxford College Of Garden Design, taking a Post Graduate Diploma in Residential Landscape and Garden Design. Since graduation I have started my own business Paul Francis Design Limited designing Gardens and Landscapes for private and commercial clients.

Monday, 4 October 2010



Where has the year gone? The summer is over and Autumn is well and truly here. October can be a depressing month with the darker mornings and the evenings pulling in, but it is the month for collecting Sloe's and making a wonderful Christmas tipple, Sloe Gin. Something to look forward to on a cold winter's evening when 'Cabined up' in front of the fire.

Sloes are the little black fruit berries of the Blackthorn Tree, Prunus spinosa, and found in abundance in hedgerows at this time of year.

Pick the sloes when ripe. The old recipies say straight after the first frosts which used to be mid to late October, but with the milder winters we tend to have now, you have to use your own judgement.

As long as the berries are soft and jucy when squeezed, they're Okay.

  • Take about 1lb (450 Grams) of sloes to a 750 ml bottle of Gin. (Don't use expensive Gin.)

  • Prick the sloes all over, then place into a clean jar with the gin and 4 oz (125 grams) of sugar.

  • Stir well and leave in a dark place for 3 months. Shake the jar every other day or so to help disolve the sugar.

  • When ready, strain through muslin until the gin runs clear. Do not squeeze it or the gin will go cloudy.

  • Pour into clean bottles and leave them to mature. The sloe gin can be drunk imediately but improves as it matures.

The longer it is left the better it becomes, so I am told. I've not manged to keep mine long enough!!!!!

A great alternative is to use Brandy not gin for sloe Brandy or Damsons instead of sloes for Damson Gin or Damson Brandy.

Roll on those winter nights.

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