Furbelow Mugwort and Pellitory.


One of the best ‘Old School’ solicitors in the country.

– in my inflamed imagination, but in reality just three bits of the day joined up because I love the names so much. Furbelows is a species of seaweed, mugwort I’ll come to in a minute and Pellitory of the wall because I only I/D’d it yesterday and today it was everywhere down the green lane from Gerrans though the Rosteague Estate.


The first photo shows it doing what it’s meant to do according to its name – grow on a wall – but the second photo shows enough of it growing below the wall to provide for the urinary problems of a small village – it is, you see, a medicinal herb, which is a good thing because it would never live by its looks.


So for the first time in my life I gathered a very small quantity of the herb to take home and turn into a healing tea. Then, seeing myself as something of a Gandalf I went mad and gathered a bunch of Mugwort as well. If things go on as they are, hedgerow medicine may be the only show in town if you can’t afford private care.

I had privately determined to try these nostrums first on myself, but Madame has been incredibly supportive. We are surrounded not simply by abstract beauty – whatever that might be – but by meaning. Intensively farmed food has lost much of its nutritional value over the past decades, and yet we are surrounded (where it still survives) by the means of alleviating those deficiencies.

It seems to me that knowing, naming and understanding plants and the natural world is the first step to embracing a new and less exploitative way of living. Today I identified a red bartsia plant. It was there all the time but until I knew it’s name it didn’t exist for me.

As we walked up the lane after an hour on the beach (where I photographed the furbelows – blown onshore by last week’s fierce storm winds) – I was gathering some seeds from alexanders, cow parsley, and hogweed, I’ll post the macro photos when we get back, and I was struck by how little I’d seen before I started to look. They are all absolutely beautiful and absolutely different. To walk down the lane between, say, February and July, you might think nothing had changed and yet even during that brief period three different species had grown, flowered and died. The hedgerow is a highly dynamic and ever changing theatre, free to all. There’s only one word for it and that’s Glory.

From left to right – Cow Parsley, Hogweed and Alexanders
This is a hoverfly of the genus Syrphus but without a microscope it’s hard to tell which species.



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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