A personal history of a plantsman
- Credit: Steve Jones
Steve Jones writing on behalf of Sid Valley Biodiversity Group
Why am I interested in plants? It is probably down to my grandfather; he came from a long line of market gardeners and I thought it was just normal to be growing vegetables and flowers. He was a country man at heart, and often took us out to see the woods and streams that he knew from his youth. Wherever we have lived we have found wild places to walk on: cliffs and dunes, river valleys, woods and meadows. So I have seen a wide variety of landscapes and plants.
As a junior school teacher, I was in charge of environmental studies, so organised school trips to the wild areas. I set up a wildlife area in the school grounds with a large pond, a meadow, a copse and hedges. When I retired, I moved to the country buying a derelict farmhouse in Cornwall to restore. This came with an overgrown three-acre field. The local conservation officer came and expressed delight at the herbage. He gave us 300 trees to plant at the steep end of the field and we gradually restored the rest as a hay meadow.
I became very interested in the different plants that I had seen and managed, so I read about the ways the plants had found to survive. But increasingly I was not just ticking off individual plants as in a ‘seen’ list but understanding that the plants were specific to a location, with particular soil and micro-climate and were part of a community of plants and other creatures. I also realised that I was not the first to know the plants and that for thousands of years humans had used plants and made them a part of their myths and poetry. But it became increasingly clear that wildlife was in trouble and that humans were well on the way to killing off many plants and animals. I do small things to save our wildlife but mostly just take joy from being with the amazing life around us. In this long cold lonely winter, I have waited for a new spring and a new summer and new places to be with new flowers.
Steve is a regular contributor to this column and a valued member of the Sid Valley Biodiversity Group.
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