Last Sunday, I was back down in Sussex at The Bat's Wing Apothecary in Alfriston. When I visited the village earlier this year, I had booked to go on a herb walk, run by Hera Jonas (pictured) who owns the shop, and I had been looking forward to the day eagerly.
The weather on Sunday was warm and sunny and perfect for a country walk, even without the added bonus of learning about herbs and plants that grew along the way.
Hera Jonas is a qualified medical herbalist and is passionate about her craft. She led the small group of walkers – there were seven of us – down the lane beside the apothecary towards the banks of the Cuckmere River.
I was amazed at how many wonderful plants could be found growing wild at the side of buildings and on the verge at the side of the lane.
Within just a hundred yards of the shop, Hera pointed out verbena, which makes a calming tea; lavender, which has many uses including treating burns, insect bites and fungal infections; rosemary, which is uplifting and helps mental processes; lime tree leaves, which are good in salads; black horehound; which has anti-nausea properties; greater celandine, which can be used externally on warts, tansy, a mildly poisonous plant that is sometimes used to get rid of parasites; and lemon balm; which Hera called “a hug in a mug”, because of its calming properties, although it is also a laxative.
The walk continued along the river’s edge, over a bridge and up a slope beside a picturesque field, offering lovely views back over Alfriston. Along the way the group continued to learn about plants and how to identify them. Hera left us in the grounds Lullingstone Church, one of the smallest churches in the country, with the task of identifying a ground herb by ourselves. When we thought we knew what it was, we were to return to the apothecary to see if we were right.
I’m not going to say what it was, in case anyone reading this fancies going on one of Hera’s herb walks themselves. If you do, visit the shop to put your name down well in advance, as they tend to get booked up quickly.
The Bat's Wing Apothecary is at High Street, Alfriston, BN26 5UF. Tel: 01323 871555 or 01273 516456.
Always seek expert advice from a qualified herbalist before taking herbal remedies.