Kate Thorne’s Botanical Workshop for Montgomeryshire Flora Group on 11th October 2016
A dozen intrepid botanists came from the west (Wales and borders) to Church Pulverbatch in the foothills of the Long Mynd and Stiperstones in Shropshire. This delightful remote village is recorded in the Domesday Book and is believed to be the site of a prehistoric fort. There was to be no traversing the ankle twisting rocks of the Stiperstones ridge today. Our aim was to study Rosa, Chenopodiaceae and other groups. We were warmly welcomed into Kate and John Thorne’s lovely farmhouse kitchen, where we had delicious coffee made in Kate’s new milk frother machine. As this was accompanied by Sylvia Backhouse’s seed, fruit and quality cocoa rondels, Sue Southam’s cheese straws and M&S chocolate biscuits; here was a taste of what was to come.
Soon we were immersed in specimens and Kate’s excellent handouts. Kate’s long term knowledge of the genera was imparted in an easy informal manner, ably assisted by retired husband, John, a talented gardener, who had grown numerous wild roses from cuttings. Fresh specimens were regularly brought in from the garden in case we should start chatting again instead of working. Gradually we separated out the dog roses from the downy roses and the sweet briars; even if our noses weren’t refined enough to detect apple (sweet briar) or Cherry Blossom boot polish (downy). Technical terms were patiently explained verbally as well as being available on handouts with line drawings. We learned (or relearned) everything from acicles, through subulate to villous.
At lunchtime, a veritable feast appeared before us. Not only Kate and John’s homemade tomato and lentil and potato and lovage soups, but also hot pizzas and miniature savoury flans for starters, quickly followed by salads, turkey, cheeses and artisan bread, chutneys and pickles, provided by numerous talented people in the group. We finished with a Rosa and Rubus cake made by Ruth, washed down with Appletize, complete with a toast from Steve to Kate for her birthday on the 12th. We managed a reasonable rendering of Happy Birthday both in English and Welsh too. At last we were allowed out and Max the lurcher was delighted to join in the fun. We practiced again outside in the garden. (I couldn’t help admiring the way Kate coped with this big garden, not to mention playing church organ and ringing the bells when John was still working as a GP in Shetland.)
|Serving the Appletize|
|Ruth's Rosa and Rubus cake|
We then needed to walk off some of the ubiquitous food so we pottered off to a nearby field (with permission) to see superb fresh specimens of Orobanche minor parasitic on agricultural red clover planted for winter sheep feed. It was a real surprise to see the Common Broomrape looking so fresh.
|Orobanche minor parasitic on agricultural red clover|
After admiring the hilly view of south Shropshire, we were ushered back to focus on aquatics, arable weeds and Atriplex. A big specimen of Potamogeton polygonifolius taught us not to rely on size of leaves alone for ID of this species and various tips about veins and hinges or lack of the latter were passed round. We noted that Petty Spurge had petioles, which was handy to remember.
Finally Steve Attwood-Wright produced some of his splendid samples of colourful, expertly woven cloth and produced an FSC laminated guide to explain how he hoped to work on some patterns with fine botanical detail.
|Steve demonstrating his colourful woven cloth and ideas for future fine botanical detail|
Many thanks to Kate and John for a superb day. I have since spotted Rosa tomentosa at a new site so the retraining worked.