Heather and I were very lucky to be asked to come and host some herbal medicine workshops at the excellent Meadows Connections festival, back in July. The weekend was blessed with dry weather and a radiant full moon, set in the resplendent jagged peaked and rolling Yorkshire Dales near to Settle.
Meadow Connections is an ongoing project which seeks to provide opportunities to learn about and get involved with the unique, breathtakingly beautiful and increasingly rare habitats of upland hay meadows in the Yorkshire Dales. (http://www.meadowconnections.co.uk/)
Throughout the weekend, there was the chance to get involved in lots of different workshops apart from our own, including flora and fauna ID, jewellery making, natural beekeeping, scything and drawing. The Sunday saw the Northern Scythe championships, which if you’ve never had a chance to see and scything a competition, I cannot recommend enough! Obviously in modern times, traditional skills, like scything have fallen out of practice, but this event showed how quickly skilled sychers could harvest a field. And how much nicer than using hideous fossil fuel powered giant machinery for the job. The skill and speed with which the competitiors cut through their 4 by 4 meter squares, was astounding. And we were very pleased that our friend Ruth, the organiser of the event, came third overall in the competition, beating many skilled men scythers. Go Ruth!
But the main reason Heather and I were there, was to experience the vast array of wild-growing herbs in the upland hay meadows. We were happier than the sky-larks that sang in the big wide blue sky above, to be surrounded by our herbal allies in such abundance. (We get really, geekily excited about this kind of thing..) Top treat that we don’t normally get to see in the wild, was probably the swathes of wood betony (Stachys betonica), a favourite nervine herb: meaning that is works to calm and soothe the nervous system, allaying stress, particularly when it is connected with a nervous digestion. Also very useful for headaches.
During our workshops we took people out into the meadows to gather the herbs that they would be using in the practical part of the workshop, to make medicines.