Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

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REMINDER: Three upcoming walks

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Three walks coming up, all in the London Borough of Lameth:

Friday 17 August, Plants for All, Ruskin Park, starting at 2 p.m.

Report:  This event was organised jointly by the Friends of Ruskin Park and South London Cares – http:  – ‘a charity which connects older residents with young people’, consequently the majority of the participants were older people.  About an hour was spent walking around what was the bowling green, which then became flowerbeds and has since been rather neglected, enjoying (according to SLC website) ‘a magical afternoon sharing tales of floral love potions, botanical remedies and children’s games’.  Later we gathered at a local cafe and enjoyed tea and cakes while several people wrote down their plant-lore memories.  All in all and pleasant and successful afternoon; thanks to all involved and particularly Charlotte O’Connor  of FoRP, who did the initial planning.

Saturday 18 August, Summer Plant Walk, Spring Gardens, Vauxhall, starting at 2.30 p.m.

Report:  Eight people, four of them regulars, turned up at what looked like an unpromising, recently mown, site, but we were able to find sufficient plants, all of which were common, ‘everyday’, species, to keep us happily occupied for an hour. £30 was donated to SLBI funds.  Thank you.

Sunday 19 August, 4th Plant Walk on Tooting Common, starting at 2.30 p.m.

Report:  After a morning when rain threatened the weather had improved a great deal by the time about 12 people gathered for this walk which concentrated on a part of the Common which most of us rarely visit –  the strip of land between Emmanuel Road and the railway line, and the wooded belt south of the railway line.  We concentrated mostly on trees and examined three honey locusts  (Gleditschia triacanthos) and one of the trees which in a paper published in the London Naturalist in 2003 was considered to be one of London’s most noteworthy trees, a European white elm (Ulmus laevis) in front of  Drews Cottages. (The second noteworthy species, dotted hawthorn (Crataegus punctata), has never been refound).  Our final stop, after looking at trees all afternoon, was to examine lesser duckweed (Lemna minor) one of the world’s smallest flowering plants, which grew in water under and north of the railway bridge.

For further details see the Events page on this website.

Image:  lesser duckweed, growing under Bleak Lane Railway Bridge, Tooting Common, August 2018.

QUERY: Towel Day trees

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

According to this plaque at Rydal, Cumbria, douglas firs (Pseudotsuga menziesii) are ‘often planted on “Towel” day, May 25th, in memory of Douglas Adams [1952-2001], author of Hitchhickers Guide to the Galaxy,’ a cult radio programme in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Towel Day, on which fans are said to carry towels in memory of Adams, was initiated in 2001; does anyone have any knowledge of douglas firs being planted on this day?

Photograph taken July 2015.

REMINDER: Uses & folklore of native plants

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

On Sunday 12 August Roy Vickery will be leading a walk Uses and Folklore of our Native Plants in Alexandra Park, London Borough of Haringey, starting at 2.30 p.m. and continuing for c. 90 minutes.  For futher details see the Events page on this website; all welcome.

Report:  Unfortunately only seven people – one of whom was a baby in a pushchair – turned up for this walk, perhaps people were discouraged by the dismal weather forecast.  However, it didn’t quite rain, and we were able to spend about 90 minutes enjoying a meandering walk around the part of the park nearest the station, and discussing some of the common plants found there.

Pickled elderflowers and nettles

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

According to the London Evening Standard of 1 August 2018, Hamish Pearce, aged 22, has won the title of M Restaurants’ Young Chef of the Year.  He impressed judges with ‘a monkfish ceviche with kiwi and pickled elderflower [Sambucus nigra], followed by endive and baba ganoush, liver, nettles [Urtica dioica] and coal.  A main course of venison with fermented gazpacho came before sheep’s milk ricotta plated with nectarine and orange ice-cream.’

Plant-lore Archive: July 2018

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Things progressed steadily throughout the month with 23 items of information being received from 23 contributors, so that the Archive now contains 7784 items of information from 2281 contributors.

8745 searches were made of the website during the month.  Work continued on updating the Local Names database from which the Local Names page on the website is derived; it now contains 13,764 entries.

It is interesting to note which posts have been most consulted since the website was set up in November 2010.  The top five are: Survey of ‘Unlucky’ Plants (c. 4900 searches), churchyard yews (c. 4500 searches), cow parsley (c. 2200 searches), dandelion (c. 2200 searches), and red and white flowers (c. 1700 searches).

Image:  copy of Primrose League Diploma of Associate, awarded on the enrollment of Sarah Annie Bosley, of Ledbury, on 7 October 1889, in the Butcher Row House Museum, Ledbury, Herefordshire, July 2018.  Founded in 1883 the Primrose League supported the political ideas of Benjamin Disraeli, and its members were encouraged to wear primroses (Primula vulgaris) on 19 April, the anniversary of Disraeli’s death, each year.  The League disbanded in 2004.

REMINDER: Enjoying Plants

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

On Sunday 5 August Roy Vickery will be leading a stroll, Enjoying Plants, in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park,  near Mile End tube station, starting at 2.30 p.m. and lasting for about 90 minutes.  For further details see the Events page on this website.

Report:  About 20, mostly local, people turned up on  a sweltering afternoon to spend about 90 minutes enjoying the Cemetery’s varied flora.  Most of our stopping places were in wooded areas, but we occasionally ventured into the open.  Plants seen and discussed included viper’s bugloss (Echium vulgare), the styles of which are forked like a snake’s tongue, and two teasels: the common wild teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) and the rarer small teasel (D. pilosus).

Ludlow remembers

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

In 2014 poppies (Papaver rhoeas) were widely used to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War; plots of poppies were sown in local parks, and a massive installation of ceramic poppies was displayed at the Tower of London.  In 2018 the marking of the centenary of  the War’s end seems to passing almost unnoticed.

However, St Laurence’s churchyard in Ludlow, Shropshire, has a display of ceramic poppies representing each of the 143 service-men who were killed during the War.  These poppies were produced by Loudwater Studio in Ludlow, with input from local people making each poppy unique.  After Remembrance Day the poppies will be sold at £6.50 each to raise funds for the local branch of the Royal British Legion.

Memorial rose bushes

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

The planting of rose  (Rosa cv.) bushes in memory of the dead is a well established practice; does anyone know when it started?

The grounds of the parish church of St Peter and St Paul, Kettering, Northamptonshire, have an area devoted to such bushes.  The one shown in the foreground here commemorates Beryl Margaret Thurland (8 November 1930 – 13 February 2012) and Raymond Peter Thurland (16 May 1928 – 24 February 2012).

Photographed July 2018.

World Nettle Eating Championships, 2018

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

According to a report the Metro of 17 July 2018 of the World Nettle Eating Championships, held at the Bottle Inn, Marshwood, Dorset, the winner Phil Thorne ‘chomped his way through 104ft of stinging nettes, to beat his personal best of 96ft’. The women’s competition ended in a dead heat with both Mel Long and Rachel Woods managing to eat 62ft.

The event which was attended by about 400 people, ‘has its origins in 1997 when two farmers made a bet over who had the longest nettles  and the loser had to eat a stalk of them.’  This may or may not be true but in recent years the stalks have not been eaten, only the leaves growing on them.

Chertsey Black Cherry Fair

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Chertsey, Surrey, held its annual Black Cherry Fair on Saturday 14 July 2018.  According to the brief history of the Fair provided in its programme:

‘In 1440 King Henry VI granted the Abbot of  Chertsey permission to hold an annual fair  … originally it was known as St Ann’s Fair but perhaps due to Henry VIII’s Reformation the name was secularised to the Black Cherry Fair …  The fair had a few lean years between the wars and was superseded for a time by an annual “Sports Day” …  It was in 1975 that the fair was properly re-established and is now held every year on the second Saturday in July.’

The day starts with the Town Procession.  In 2018 this was rather small: a few vintage cars, two bands, about four floats, and one walking group.  The theme selected for 2018 was ’20th Century Heroes’, and amongst the more easily recognised ones were David Attenborough, Bob Geldoff, the emergency services, and suffragettes.  It appeared that most local organisations preferred to put their resources into stalls on the fairground, rather than producing groups for the parade.  The fairground held the usual mixture of stalls raising awareness of local organisations, commercial stalls, a small arena, and traditional fairground rides.

Apart from a cherry motif decorating one page in the programme, cherries (Prunus cvs), black or otherwise, were conspicuously absent.

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