Tuesday 8 May 2012

Walking with Weeds

Walking with Weeds was the fourth in the series of Sustainable Bungay's monthly Plants for Life talks, walks and workshops I've set up on the theme of Plants as Medicine this year.

Each event is led by a different 'plant person' and so far writers, growers and medical herbalists have spoken about medicine roots, organic and biodynamic herb growing and
how to adopt a particular herb.

On 22 April I took over twenty people on a walk through Bungay town looking at 'weeds' and what else they might be doing. It's a good job we went at the time we did because on the way to our May Give and Grow yesterday in the Library Community Garden, I noticed that the strimmers had been out and hardly any of the flowers we looked at here had escaped their blades.

That's one of the problems that comes from calling plants names that diminish their true character . . . and one of the challenges to our remembering and reconnecting with them.

Walking with Weeds
It was the perfect sunny day for it. Until five minutes before we set out when it started raining. Thank goodness for bumping into Paul whilst I was doing a last minute reccy of the places and the plants we would be stopping at. Clouds were appearing. He would bring me an umbrella.

The weather didn’t seem to bother anyone though and at 2.30 over twenty of us put up brollies and pulled over hoods and set off around Bungay to see the wild plants pushing through everywhere from cracks in the pavement to churchyards to hidden alleyways behind the town centre.

And it wasn’t just the adults who wanted to come along. The children were fascinated by the plants and often knew them by name.

The intent behind the walk was to consider these uncultivated plants beyond their usual description as ‘weeds’ and look at their medicinal qualities and uses. And in line with the Spring season, we focused on the energy-moving, tonic, galvanising properties of the plants as well as how they clear and cleanse the system after the sluggishness of winter.

And there they all were in abundant supply: nourishing energisers and diuretics, dandelions and nettles. Lymphatic booster, cleanser and energiser, cleavers. Even mega Chinese herbal tonic and superfood Gojiberry, also known as Wolfberry and Duke of Argyll’s tea tree), was growing in abundance on Castle Meadow.

After the walk we returned to the library where Charlotte prepared everyone a Wild Green and great tasting spring tonic tea made from the leaves we’d collected. It included dandelion, nettles and cleavers with a sprig of peppermint and thyme from the library garden. Bungay Community Bees’ honey was an optional extra.

Next month we welcome Norfolk-based medical herbalist Julie Bruton-Seal and her husband Matthew Seal, co-authors of the best DIY handbook on making home remedies from wild plants I know, Hedgerow Medecine.

Come along to Bungay Library at 3pm on Sunday 13th May, where Julie and Matthew will talk both about the book and the practice of Hedgerow Medicine. Don’t forget to visit the Garden Street Market beforehand and make it a day with plants.

Photos: pre-walk reccy checking out the dandelions and daisies (Charlotte Du Cann); Sustainable Bungay’s great new A board made by Roger proudly presents Walking with Weeds (Mark Watson); Walking up the road (me) and along the wall (Tristram); Grasping the nettle in Trinity churchyard; Wolfberry aka Goji (l) and Jack-by-the-Hedge aka Garlic Mustard (MW & Elinor McDowell); Preparing a Very Green and Delicious Tea (MW); Pouring and Drinking and Getting Galvanised for the spring season (EM)

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