Thursday 30 September 2010

Learning more about herbs

Many people want to learn more about herbs and there are many different ways of progressing both practical and theoretical knowledge. For those who wish to follow a degree course there are a number of academic institutions. Links can be found on the Herb Society education page.

Those looking for a more practical, self developmental approach to learning there are now various herbal apprenticeships being run in the UK. In the US, the apprenticeship movement has been flourishing for many years. Most of the respected herbal leaders such as Rosemary Gladstar, Susun Weed, Margi Flint, Gail Faith Edwards and Kiva Rose Hardin have been running practical or distance learning apprenticeships for many years. To my knowledge, this has not been available except on a very limited scale in the UK.

Anne McIntyre has been offering apprenticeships for several years and is looking to expand her placements. Anyone interested in learning with this wonderful teacher should contact Anne via her website

Sensory Herbcraft are offering their first herbal apprenticeships starting in September 2011. Their courses will be held in Cheshunt, Herfordshire and more details can be found on their website.

I am also offering apprenticeships beginning in January 2011. More details can be found here. If you are interested in discussing a place, please email me on sarah at headology dot co dot uk. If anyone knows of any other apprenticeships being offered in the UK, please let me know.

If you cannot commit to either a distance learning course or an apprenticeship, there are always local herb groups. More are being set up each year. Look in the Herbal Groups section on Herb Society website to find one near you or think about setting one up in your area.

Debs Cook and I founded the Mercian Herb Group which has now divided into an East and West Mercian Group. The East Mercian Group will be meeting in the Derby area and I am hoping we shall be holding meetings in Rugby, Leamington Spa and Birmingham for the West Mercian Group.

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Celebrating Herbs Festival: Creating a dream

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.

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Monday 6 September 2010

Five days to go!

It doesn't seem possible over a year has gone by since I made the decision to hold the first "Celebrating Herbs" Festival in the Cotswolds. Now the field is mown where the marquees will be sited and people are camping, the marquees are awaiting erection in the barn and I think I've cooked enough food to feed the speakers and extended family over the weekend.

Chris and my father spent most of last weekend building a new seat around the oak tree near the dyeing area and moving one of the other benches to the new herb bed, so people can sit and admire the view or watch the demonstrations.

You can download the programme from the Springfield Sanctuary website. We've tried to include fun events for all the family, so you don't have to be besotted with herbs to attend and can find other things to do and enjoy.

Kathryn has been appointed musical director for the four impromptu concerts, which should include an eclectic range of music, stories and poetry plus anything else anyone brings along (juggling anyone?).

If you're at a loose end this weekend and fancy a trip to the countryside, come and join us!