Have you heard of the Great British Wildflower Hunt? Now could be a great time to find out about it, and maybe get involved. Promoted by the wildflower charity Plantlife, this is the second year of its existence, and the charity is keen for as many people as possible to take part. As a child I learned the names of wildflowers from my mother, my aunts and my grandmother. We regularly had family days out in the countryside which were greatly enjoyed. Whilst there we picked cowslips, which my grandmother made into wine, blackberries, which my mother made into jam and pies, and watercress, which my father gathered from streams familiar from his boyhood. (My mother always soaked the cress overnight in sterilising tablets from Boots, to stop us getting liver-fluke!)
Today far fewer children are engaged with the great outdoors and recent research has shown that less than half of 16- to 24-year olds can put a name to a bluebell. The same research found that only 4 in 100 of those asked could identify red clover. Although these results were somewhat disappointing, the good thing they also found out was that two-thirds of those answering the questions were keen to know more.
Alarm over the omission of words catkin, conker, buttercup and dandelion from the Oxford Junior Dictionary led Plantlife to try and make these words more relevant to the youngsters of today. Perhaps controversially, (and there’s nothing like a spot of controversy to draw everyone’s attention) they have launched a drive to encourage children to pick wildflowers and to create a traditional posy with them.
Six flowers have been chosen for child-friendly floral art. They are daisies, dandelions, meadow buttercups, primroses, red campion and oxeye daisies (sometimes known as moon daisies). They are all in flower in June, so why not go hunting with your children or grandchildren? As part of its project Plantlife has produced easy-to-use identification guides to flowers. They can be downloaded and printed onto paper, or accessed from a mobile phone. If you are interested, go to www.plantlife.org.uk/wildflowerhunt to get started.
Making a daisy-chain, blowing a dandelion clock, playing conkers (you’ll have to wait a few months for that!) – we’d like to see these simple pleasures available to everyone, although I hope we’ve got a head start, here in the Teme valley.