Walking With Weeds

Walking with Weeds

It was the perfect sunny day for the first Sustainable Bungay Plants for Life walk of the year after a successful winter season of medicinal talks and workshops.

Perfect that is 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 all the dandelions, cleavers, mallows, nettles, celandines and yarrows we would be stopping at in the town’s rich and varied spaces.

Clouds were appearing. He would bring me an umbrella.

Meanwhile Charlotte put Sustainable Bungay’s brilliant new A board that Roger had made by hand (including the amazing handpainted lettering which so closely resembles the font on all SB’s literature) outside the library. And wrote out the event in chalk in her own elegant hand.

The weather didn’t seem to bother anyone 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 car park edges and 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. 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, (known more commonly here in England as  Duke of Argyll’s tea tree or Wolfberry), 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.

Meanwhile Nick had brought gobo roots. That’s Japanese burdock and whilst Nick’s was cultivated at his allotment, we do have a wild version here. Indeed one has found its way into the plant medicine bed this year with no help from me. And it’s a mega-medicine plant – a detoxing blood purifier, skin healer and alterative, which means it gradually helps restore health and proper functioning to the body.

Oh, and thanks too for the dandelion roots, Nick. They are drying in the cupboard as I write. Maybe we’ll brew up a dandelion and burdock drink! Know where we can get some local sarsaparilla?!?

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.

This is a slightly amended version of my write-up of last Sunday’s Plants for Life event with Sustainable Bungay, the fourth in a series of twelve monthly talks, walks and workshops I’ve organised this year in conjunction with a showcase bed focusing on plants as medicine at Bungay Library Community Garden. The latter is also a Sustainable Bungay project.

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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