Thursday, 26 August 2010


Woke up this morning and staggered to the window overlooking the garden. The air was full of whirling, chattering swallows - are they gathering already?

The garden is a place of sounds and silence broken only by the distant roar of a motorcycle or the siren of an ambulance on the A590 a mile and a half away.

Today small birds chatter, jays argue, collared doves coo and the mew of a buzzard comes down from the sky.
The sun is shining.
This is the view from the kitchen.

Out to lunch today in Flookburgh so time for a story.

As a small boy I was interested in Botany to the point where I became involved with the mapping of the British Flora through the Botanical Society of the British Isles.
I know - what a nerd!

Well, I was about twelve and walking with my mother near Coniston when we sat down on a banking for a rest. My mother moved to one side, pulled out a feathery leaf she had been sitting on and asked what it was.

It was Meum athamanticum - spignel or meu. A plant that does grow elsewhere in the east of Cumbria and was sent to London on trains in historical times as a Dill substitute. Its leaves have a lemony scent. Three plants of it now grow in the garden at our house.

Now the last record of this plant anywhere near Coniston was pre 1930 and reputed to have been made by John Ruskin - and not seen since.

This was a big rediscovery.

I duly filled in the record card and sent it off to Franklin Perring.
Soon after a lady arrived from the Barrow Field Naturalists to verify the plant. She was somewhat taken aback to find I was but a strip of a lad. (Actually a bit podgy).

The record was then logged and I did not think much of it till many years later when Geoffrey Halliday published A Flora of Cumbria.
The Meum was mentioned but its discovery was attributed to a lady from Barrow!
(I had this remedied for future editions.)
This lady, no, woman had purloined my glory, stolen the discovery from a small boy!

Actually that is not strictly true. It should have been attributed to my mother's derriere as that is what found the flower!

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