It is lovely, this work of helping people to be inspired by places. I work with marvellous historic, cultural and natural places and their stories and significances. I spend a very large proportion of my time being excited, enthusiastic, attentive, empathetic and absorbant. Forging connections between people and place is great – and it can be tiring.
Every so often it is good to be home and concentrate on my own connections with my own backyard. So, this morning, me and my dog took a stroll. The same stroll that we take most mornings when I am at home. Today, I thought about just why this is so important to me.
Along this very ordinary walk, are a range of very common wild flowers. Each one of them this morning spoke to me of my memories, and local customs, folklore, history. They spoke to me of rural England and my roots here. I realised I knew them all, and something about every one of them.
I do know their scientific names too – but that’s not what I was remembering this morning.
I was thinking of the roots we share, how entwined we are, and how these plants define where I belong and where I have come from. Butterbur leaves wide as plates wrapped butter for market, lasses plucked ‘ goosegirl sticks’ to drive the birds to market.
They are all very common wayside plants, that have marked my personal path and the path of my people.
They are meeting places, traps, resting places, breeding grounds and foodplants for insects. I know many of them, by one name or another, or maybe just as nodding acquaintances, too
Memories and stories, conversations and experiences. Far too many for here and now. Most mornings I wander past them, but today every plant triggered something.
I remembered Tasmania and the virgin forests that are quite possibly the most wonderful natural environment I have ever seen. The conservationists there struggled not to laugh at how we conserve hedgerows here – it seems such a tiny, worthless remnant to them.
I had a vision of what it would be like to leave England and the hedgerows behind. The myriad of familiar plants, each with stories, conversations, memories, uses, powers, would be lost. Imagined t the people who knew them, adrift in a new alien flora. I felt that as a frightening, enormous loss.
So it is good to be here in late summer, noticing all these very ordinary plants, reconnecting with my own patch, its past and my own.