Collecting the folklore and uses of plants


1. I have been going to Whitby Folk Week for most of my life and they give out sprigs of heather on the last night of the festival.  They build a garland from the heather which is carried into the hall by people who have been performing at the festival.  Everyone sings ‘Will ye go lassie, go’ and then there’s a bit of a scrum to grab a bit of heather [e-mail, May 2016].

2.  Heather honey was considered to be very good for you and given to children for coughs and colds.  Adults drank it mixed with whisky and hot water, known as toddy …  In the 1950s it was common for cars returning from a journey to the hills to have a bunch of heather tied to their bonnets!  The early blooming variety of heather [Erica cinerea] was known as bell heather and regarded as inferior [Walthamstow, London, October 2015].

3.  There’s gold under bracken [Pteridium aquilinum]                                      Silver under gorse [Ulex europaeus]                                                                           Starvation under heather                                                                                              Told to me by my parents on family holidays in Wales (1960s) on how farmers regard plants as a sign of good/poor soil [Brompton Cemetery, London, October 2015].  Additional information, received November 2015:  ‘Checking with my source (my mother), she is certain she read it in Bill Conwy’s Nature Notes in the Guardian and that he reported it as a Welsh proverb.  This would have been in the late 1960s, possibly early 1970s.’

Images: main, Kensington Gardens, City of Westminster, London, October 2015; inset, Windsor Great Park, Berkshire, August 2017.