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Dr Johnson’s 312th birthday celebrations

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Each year the writer Samuel Johnson (1709-84) is remembered in his home city of Lichfield, Staffordshire, on a Saturday near his birth date, 18 September.  In 2021 18 September was a Saturday, and a series of events were held on that day.  These included family activities (‘make your own Georgian teapot’), story telling, and a performance by the Lichfield Poets on the theme ‘Edible England’.  However, the main public event was the Civic Ceremony which took place in the Market Place at noon.

At about 11.55 a procession left from the Guildhall to walk the short distance to Johnson’s statue in the Square.  A ‘traditional hymn’ was sung before the mayor placed a ‘laurel [Prunus laurocerasus] chaplet’ on the statue’s plinth, saying:

‘As Mayor of this Ancient and Loyal City it is my priviledge to place on the statue of Dr Johnson, a laurel chaplet to his immortal memory and as a tribute to his genius.’

Johnson’s ‘last prayer’ was sung, all were invited to join in singing John Bunyan’s Who would true valour see, followed by a blessing given by a canon of the Cathedral, and thanks from the mayor, before the procession returned to the Guildhall.

Sunflowers indicate hidden disabilities

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In May 2016 a scheme was launched at Gatwick Airport to promote the sunflower (Helianthus annuus) as a symbol to indicate that its wearer had a hidden disability.  It was chosen ‘to reflect the idea of confidence, growth and strength shown by people with hidden disabilities, as well as introducing happiness and positivity’.

Since 2016 the scheme has extended to cover Britain and some other parts of the world.

Image:  entrance door to The Higgins [Museum] Bedford, August 2021.

Flowers to commemorate 9/11

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On 11 September 2011 four commercial passenger flights were hijacked by members of the militant Islamic group al-Quaeda with the intent of crashing planes into iconic buildings in the U.S.A.  Three of the attempts were successful, resulting in almost 3,000 deaths.

On the twentieth anniversary of the attacks commemoration events were held, including one in Grosvenor Square, London, of which the United States embassy occupied one side from 1960-2018, and which contains a memorial to the 67 British citizens who died in the 11 September attacks.

Beginners’ botany – 2

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The first of our Beginner’s Botany strolls on 10 September was attended by six people, who all thought it went well.  We explored a small corner of Tooting Common, London Borough of Wandsworth, and enjoyed, amongst other things Italian lords-and-ladies, Arum italicum ssp. neglectum (see image); horse radish, Armoracia rusticana; lucerne, Medicago sativa and viper’s bugloss, Echium vulgare.

We hope to continue these walks with about one every two weeks, so the next one will be on Monday 20 September, starting at 2 p.m.  Although these events are free, booking is necessary –  please contact One place remaining, but waiting list open.

Dandelion and burdock

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Participants on plant-lore walks often recall drinking ‘dandelion and burdock’ when they were  children, and ask if it’s still available.

It is, and a bottle of it was purchased in Maidstone, Kent, on 8 September 2021.  It tastes rather bland, and it’s unclear how much dandelion (Taraxaxum) and burdock (Arctium) it contains.  Rather enigmatically its list of ingredients reads: ‘water, sugar, malt extract, acid (citric acid), dandelion and burdock flavouring, preservative (potassium sorbate) to preserve freshness’.

REMINDER: Beginners’ botany

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Friday 10 September, Beginners’ botany, walk on Tooting Common, London Borough of Wandsworth.  We hope this will be the first in a series for people with little prior knowledge who want to learn more about plants.  As the number of participants will be restricted to six booking is required, contact  One place remaining.

Carshalton Straw Jack, 2021

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Straw Jack, progressed around Carshalton, in the London Borough of Sutton, again on the afternoon of Saturday 4 September 2021.

Although at one time Jack was burnt at the end of the day, in 2021 he was not burnt due to concerns about space and insurance, but rather unceremoniously left outside his last calling place, The Hope pub.

Correction:  Apparently ‘part’ of the Straw Jack was burnt late in the evening.

For further information see the report of the 2017 event on this website.

Updated 14 September 2021.

Bedford – site of the Garden of Eden

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The Panacea Society, founded by Mabel Barltrop, a clergyman’s widow, later known as Octavia, was founded in Bedford in 1919, and lingered on until 2012.  Octavia received daily communications from God, and was told that ‘Bedford was the site of the original Garden of Eden …  the area around Bedford was the place where evil began in the world – represented by the serpent persuading Eve to eat the forbidden fruit’.  And ‘it was to Bedford and the Garden that Jesus would return, to live in the community gathered to greet him’.

It appears that members of the Society attached particular significance to a weeping ash, Fraxinus excelsior ‘Pendula’, in their garden, according to a notice nearby:

‘This tree stands close to the centre of Bedford in a garden at the centre of the world.  Panaceans enjoyed thinking about this tree as a symbol of their life here.  They believed that their community activities were linked to the future happiness of the world beyond this garden.’

The Society’s former headquarters is now open as the excellent Panacea Museum.

Tree, currently badly attacked by a fungus at the base of its trunk, photographed September 2021.

Plant-lore Archive – August 2021

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After two months during which a good quantity of material flowed in, things slowed down in August with only seven items of information being received from six contributors.  Thus the total now stands at 8933 items from 3011 contributors.

More enquiries than usual were received via the website, and these were fully answered as quickly as possible; unfortunately few enquirers acknowledged these replies, so it is unknown whether or not they considered them to be useful.

Two walks were held, one in the Mole Valley, Surrey, and the other on Tooting Common, London Borough of Wandsworth.

Image: statue of St Vincent of Sargossa (d.  early 4th century), protomartyr of Spain, holding a palm frond symbolic of his martyrdom, in the Mezquita-Catedral, Córdoba, Andalucia, Spain, August 2021.

REMINDER: Weeds & their Uses

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Roy Vickery will be leading two strolls discussing Weeds & their Uses on Sunday 5 September, as part of the Railside Community Garden, Streatham, London Borough of Lambeth, open day, for details see the Events page on this website.  All  ages welcome.

Report:  After a couple of weeks of grey and chilly weather, summer suddenly returned, and a good number of people turned up to enjoy the open day.  Of these a total of approximately 45 people opted to join the weed walks, and apparently enjoyed, the two strolls.  By slightly varying the route most of the plants discussed were different on each stroll.

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