How do you describe a dream coming true? This is what it feels like when I think back over the first Celebrating Herbs Festival at Springfield Sanctuary. It started as an idea last summer, but as the months progressed and wonderful people agreed to come and talk about herbs in a Cotswold field, the possibility suddenly became a reality.
We knew the weekend could not just include herbs. There needed to be other activities going on for those who might accompany the herb enthusiasts. Sky Symphony kite team kindly offered to come and perform their stunning displays of synchronised kite flying to music throughout the weekend, turning down two requests to fly elsewhere. David Heeks, a budding children's author from Solihull Writers Workshop agreed to tell stories and delighted everyone with his tales and songs. Nik Mohammed brought his Beginners archery setup and nearly everyone tried their luck at hitting the target.
I cannot thank the medical and horticultural herbalists enough for educating us with their chosen subjects. Anne McIntyre was truly wonderful, her calm and gentle presence exuding a wealth and depth of knowledge of her beloved herbs. She inspired us all to use the information she shared and discover more about the herbs she mentioned.
Unfortunately Zoe Hawes was unable to join us because of illness, but the extra time allowed people to go with Denise Fiddaman on a herbwalk around the Sanctuary before returning to the main marquee for a fascinating talk from Davina Wynne-Jones and Saskia Marjoram on the energetic properties of herbs. Davina brought with her some beautiful pictures of her own herb garden in Barnsley near Cirencester.
On Friday and Saturday evenings we enjoyed imprompu concerts performed by our three offspring – Kathryn, Richard and Stephen together with other festival goers. Dave Salmon from Sky Symphony offered some wonderful covers and compositions including my personal favourite, Susie's Lullaby, while Ian and Heather gave us some memorable folk songs and Johnny Cash numbers. Glynn Morgan had us in stitches on Saturday evening with his message from the Darleks and Janey recited a Spike Milligan poem.
The Head trio also entertained festival goers at lunchtime on Saturday and Sunday with a combination of jazz, blues and folk including a number of original songs composed by either Kathryn or Stephen..
Kristina Patmore and her partner, Cameron, transformed the oak glade beyond the summerhouse into a herbal dyeing arena. The hard spring water gave incredible deepness to colours achieved from various dyes. Amongst those Kristina used were onion skins, nettles, dyers greenweed, madder and woad. The wool she dyed had been pre-mordented with alum. She also experimented with two different dyes, achieving a beautiful shade of Lincoln Green on one sample.
Victoria Logue began the Sunday session, with a fascinating talk on herbs for bees followed by a demonstration of seed planting, which taught me a great deal. Two of the Sanctuary Apprentices, Jacki and Kaz described their herbal journey during the following session before we broke for kite displays and a shared lunch. Jenny Jones and Anne Chiotis completed our Sunday afternoon lectures with talks on the immune system and herbs for stress.
The weather proved wonderful all weekend despite a wet and murky start to Saturday morning. Once the sun came through everything dried up and stayed warm.
It is the joy on people's faces which will stay with me. One person said afterwards, “Spending the weekend there, the camping, the talks, the people, the view, was the best tonic I could possibly have had to set me up for the coming weeks.”
Everyone I spoke to talked about the wonderful time they were having, from the views outside, the awesome kite displays to the shared herbal learning. They asked if we would put on the festival next year. Originally we had been thinking of a bi-annual event, but this year was such a success, we shall try to do it again next year if we possibly can.
Hope you enjoy the photos alongside. Many thanks to Jacki for sharing her photos of the weekend.