Thursday, 5 October 2017

Are you interested in herbwifery?

The 2018 Springfield Sanctuary Herbwifery Apprenticeship begins again in January 2018. Applications will be open until December 8th 2017

The twelve-month apprenticeship , offering the opportunity to learn more about growing, harvesting and working with herbs to improve personal and family health and wellbeing.

Each apprentice is expected to:

  • choose up to twenty herbs to study during the year         
  •  choose one herbal ally to study in depth during the year
  •  attend at least six of the eleven workshops throughout the year (four of which must be at the Sanctuary),
  •  attend two out of the three work days designated during the year
  • attend the Herb Festival held on the second weekend in September, helping with organisational tasks including setting up in the week beforehand and taking down on the Sunday afternoon/evening and contributing to content
  • complete the tasks set by the mentor within given timescales
  • work within the Sanctuary herb beds – digging, weeding, planting, harvesting etc., possibly taking responsibility for a designated area.
  • keep a herbal diary and/or online blog detailing activities and learning
  • participate in online activities to feed back personal progress and contribute to discussions
  • evaluate personal progress at the end of twelve months

Outcomes: Year 1
By the end of twelve months, the apprentice will have:

  •  improved knowledge and understanding of up to twenty personally chosen herbs.
  • grown herbs from seeds, cuttings or divisions and taken note of their development using drawings or photography.
  • shared in practical tasks to manage the Sanctuary herb beds.
  • harvested flowers, aerial parts, berries and roots
  • made teas, decoctions, macerations, syrups, infused oils, salves, tinctures, vinegars, flower essences and elixirs
  • familiarised themselves with a variety of body processes such as respiration, digestion, circulation etc. and looked at several herbs which can help to balance these processes.
  • participated in online action learning
  • written, digital/online and/or pictorial evidence of their activities and learning
  • completed tasks set by the mentor and fed back the results to the other apprentices
  • begun to share knowledge, enthusiasm and herbal extractions with family and friends

     Costs: There is no overall charge for the apprenticeship. All apprentices are asked to contribute £50 in January 2018 to support the running of the Herb Festival. If they attend the festival in September, they will not be expected to make a further donation in this area. Apprentices are expected to make a reasonable financial donation to support the running of the Sanctuary between £10 and £40 when attending workshops and to offer practical physical help at the Sanctuary. Anyone considering an apprenticeship should factor in personal costs such as time, transport, access to growing space, childcare arrangements and internet plus commitment to their studies and to the Sanctuary.

Practical issues: This apprenticeship is about learning through physical as well as mental work. Apprentices are expected to attend workshops in sensible outdoor clothing with footwear appropriate for the physical conditions of working in a garden/field. Wet and cold weather gear is essential. Tasks will be set according to physical ability. Anyone not proficient in digging will be taught to use a garden fork and expected to learn and utilise those lessons. Anyone with serious physical or mobility issues will not be expected to carry out physically demanding tasks.

Sanctions: Anyone who does not attend workshops or the Festival and does not communicate regularly, providing evidence of their activities and progress, will be removed from the apprenticeship or asked to repeat the year. Anyone who is removed from the apprenticeship on two occasions will not be accepted again.

Note: This apprenticeship is for personal development only. Apprentices study at their own pace. The amount and depth of work is self-directed. Guidance will be given on sources of information but handouts covering all topics may not be available. There is no accreditation from an academic body, certificate of attendance or examination process. The apprenticeship will NOT enable anyone to set up in private practice as a medical herbalist but may provide evidence which lead to certain exemptions from other herbal training. 

Contact: Anyone who is interested in applying for the apprenticeship should email sarah at headology dot co dot uk.


Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Haste to the Festival 8-10th September

All our energies are currently focused on the eighth Celebrating Herbs Festival to be held at Wynyards Farm, GL54 2JR from Friday 8th to Sunday 10th September. 

Following their recent exposure on BBC's Countryfile Summer Diaries on Wednesday 30 August, Bourton on the Water Men in Sheds will be joining the festival on Friday morning to help with any last minute preparations before we kick off with the Intensive, "Forgotten Herbs" with medical herbalist, Ali English from Lincolnshire at 2pm.

Members of Sky Symphony Kite Display Team will be on hand throughout the festival to help children create their own kites and display their amazing talents in the Cotswold skies. 

The festival will comprise a variety of talks, workshops and herb walks. Internationally aclaimed herbalist, Anne McIntyre, will be joining us on Saturday afternoon to discover the herbs of the Sanctuary.

Saturday evening will be a lively occasion with an hour of Open Mic followed by the West Midlands band, Goodall.

This year we are introducing a new children's programme and we're delighted Bruce Lowe can join us for two drum workshops at 12.30pm each day.

Sunday's events will highlight more of our forgotten herbs and a history of magical herbs from the Greeks until present day with David Sutch. 

To see the full programme go to

During the festival I shall also be signing copies of my new herb book, Playing with Herbs . This is a culmination of the last fifteen years working with others who want to learn more about our wonderful plant allies.

More details about Playing with Herbs can be found here

Monday, 8 May 2017

What are you harvesting now?

Once again, a year is racing by and the fifth month already begun. If we turn away and blink, another plant has bloomed and disappeared while others stay with us for a longer duration.

I always think of May as the green month as there are so many different tones of a single colour. Each tree has its own particular shade building up a living palette amongst the landscape. In hedgerows, crabapple has thrown a white garment over her branches and the hawthorn blossom is glistening brightly against the vibrant leaves. We’re still waiting for elder and crampbark flowers but they will soon be here along with the blushing pink of dog rose.
For me, May heralds the urge to harvest. Plantain, cowslip and ground ivy from the fields, hawthorn blossom and leaf from the hedges, daisies from the garden lawn, fresh marjoram, lovage and mint for my cooking and ground ivy to dry for green powder. Errant nettles have been thrown on the compost to add nitrogen to next year’s soil but there may still be time for another harvest from the Sanctuary’s strongest gift.

Before I gather, it is always a good idea to review my larder and decide what I actually need rather than succumbing to the overall urge to forage. I know plantain will be in my future but I’ve also made use of elder leaves from Sanctuary prunings. A tree had grown over the path, making it impossible for my father to pass safely on his mower, so we cut back branches and I have made two batches of infused oils. These could either be used in a general bruise salve but I saw a recipe recently for an insect repellent so there is an opportunity to try making something new.

Broad-leaf thyme has begun to flower and the purple sage is finally looking alive, so I shall be gathering both for a new elixir to replace the amount we’ve used recently whilst suffering from a nasty cold and cough. I am so grateful for my store of elderberry elixir, fire cider vinegar and various cough syrups. When you’re feeling ill, you need the remedy immediately rather than making fresh and having to wait for several weeks.

I am waiting for my St George’s mushroom tincture to finish the six-week alcohol extraction phase. This is the first year I have gathered this variety of mushroom which grows all over my five-acre meadow. One of my apprentices picked the first basket after April’s workshop and I gathered the second for drying just over a week ago. These will be added at the decoction stage so the water and alcohol can be combined for a full-spectrum extraction. St George’s mushrooms can be used against thrush, so I’m looking forward to adding this medicine to my anti-fungal collection.

Another remedy which is about to be made is a chamomile vinegar. This helps to guard against fungal infections in difficult to reach body crevices. The plants emerged as tiny, self-sown seedlings which I transplanted into a single large pot. Now they resemble a green triffid swaying in the breeze already over a foot high. I’m waiting for them to flower in the next week or so before I gather most of the aerial parts to infuse in cider vinegar.

Although most herbalists talk about using chamomile flowers, I have always used the entire aerial parts to good effect. Last year, I experimented in collecting only the flowers and whilst they are lovely in tea, I feel the rest of the plant is just as efficacious and shouldn’t be wasted.

May is also the last month for sowing this year’s herb seeds. A second batch of ashwagandha have been scattered from a single cherry in case the germination of those planted at the beginning of April is not sufficient. It took me a while to find where I’d hidden the holy basil seeds, still on their dry stalks but hopefully they will be showing themselves in a couple of weeks.

With the very cold weather, germination this year has been horrendous. Only two of my motherwort seeds grew and none of the pleurisy root. Someone in Manchester offered to share her woad seeds and those are now good sized seedlings which will be planted out at the Sanctuary in a few days, along with Californian poppy and self-sown chamomile. I have still to decide what to do with milk thistle and the plague of borage seedlings. Both are too large to remain in the vegetable beds for much longer.

As each year progresses, time available to describe what is happening diminishes as necessary practical tasks increase. Even though we may not be able to capture each action in words, memories continue to store treasures against more difficult times.