So did we? Or didn’t we?

There are two very different ways of going out after plants. The first is to go for a wander and stop whenever you see something you don’t recognise. The second is to go out after one or two specific plants, which is a strategy that often results in disappointment.

This week has been a sort of field trip in search of medicinal herbs, and so that narrows the field down quite a bit. The Holy Grail – well, that’s overstating it a bit – but the plant I most wanted to find was Stachys officinalis – Betony. It’s a close relative of the Woundworts. Its cousins, Hedge Woundwort and Marsh Woundwort both grow around here. The problem is that the Vice County list doesn’t show Betony as growing in this part of Cornwall, although the floras aren’t nearly so certain it’s not here.

But before we get to that, I have to say that Madame has the most remarkable gift of pointing out promising plants. So today we walked the length of Porth Creek down to the ferry and then back via Bohortha accompanied for part of the way by quite the noisiest couple of walkers we’ve heard in years. They were so noisy I thought they were at least two families with children following us, but no- they were just two women with a lot to catch up on. Generally we walk in silence, for no other reason than the fact that we’re usually immersed in our own thoughts. On the way we found wild strawberries, pale flax which looked wonderful in profusion in a meadow, common mallow (a medicinal herb), sheepsbit, rest-harrow and loads of nipplewort and – of course- all the Stachys I wasn’t looking for. Then just as we were about finished Madame pointed to the one I was looking for down towards the cliff top. img_5629It was much shorter than I had imagined, but the upper leaves were unmistakable. But was it the real deal? – there’s a hybrid but without Stace (the bible) I can’t be sure. Then, just to cap a lovely walk we spotted pellitory of the wall hiding behind a gatepost. That’s another two medicinal biggies and then at the last moment a Silver Y moth on the roadside.

How does a respectable sceptic find a word for blessed except – we’ll – blessed?

And so some photos  – now edited after arriving home


Author: Dave Pole

I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun. When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths. What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs. But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more. Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.

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