2019 Workshops at the Weald and Downland Living Museum, West Sussex.

To book- email courses@wealddown.co.uk


Re-writing history – Making Historical Inks.

Friday 10th May.  9.30am - 4.30pm. £65.


During the course we will be working to explore the amazing genius that has produced not only different coloured inks, but ink that does not freeze, discourages mice from eating documents, is self-destructive after a set time, is invisible without the application of another substance, is protected against going mouldy, or even issues forth from an ink stand when water is poured into it.

Ingredients include juice of elderberries, logwood, Brazilwood, oak galls, Persian berries and gum Arabic. A fun day to make the recipes for yellow, red, purple, black, green and blue inks and practise writing with them if wished.


Favourites from 20 years of Herb Workshops.

Friday 21st June.  9.30am - 4.30pm. £65.


Over the last 20 years we have explored the many uses of herbs from the past Millennium using authentic recipes from each period. We have also examined our own native herbs and noted the benefits of plants introduced during the Roman occupation, from Arabic medicine through the Crusades and those discovered by Settlers in America. Along the way through 48 different workshops we have made cookery, medicinal, cosmetic and craft recipes and projects. Recipes have played their part alongside herb cultivation and plant family recognition which has included trees.

This workshop is a celebration of those herbs which have dominated the scene throughout or remained steadfast in their uses for the past 2,000 years. As we look at why they have been so successful, we will be making a variety of recipes which will also recall workshops from the past 20 years at the museum. If requests are made before May 12th to my email, Christina.stapley@tiscali.co.uk your favourite may be included. No doubt there will be some from the three most successful workshops which ran for over 10 years. Likely herbs are rose, rosemary, elder, pot marigold, lavender etc.


Alchemy and the Chemistry of Herbs.

Saturday 6th July.  9.30am - 4.30pm. £65.


The rebellion of Paracelsus, a Swiss physician, surgeon and alchemist against the orthodox medicine of the time in 1527, laid open the way for modern chemical medicine to develop. We follow the theory of his hermetic-spagyric methods of extracting constituents from the whole herb and then re-combining the extractions for a ‘wholistic’ medicine. These methods are found also in the ancient cultures of China and India and from western history in Ancient Egypt.

As modern science gives us a deeper understanding of the relationships between plants and their environment, we look at the three principles making up each plant which correspond to the alchemical terms mercury, sulphur and salt. The day is not one of complex chemistry but of herbs being presented in an entirely new way. It will be an exploration of natural history and the craft of herbalism which also involves combining herbs for greater effect.

Rosemary, hyssop, oregano, motherwort, white dead nettle, marshmallow and burdock are some of the herbs in plant alchemy. We will look at the preparation of aromatic waters, essences, tinctures and elixirs.


Diaries of Garden Secrets.

Sunday 7th July. 9.30am - 4.30pm. £65.


Keeping a diary of what flourishes in your garden and when is a useful pastime which has been popular for centuries. It is a particularly relevant activity as we experience the effects of climate change to record which plants suffer most from the extremes of temperature and moisture levels and which survive well. Additionally to make a note of actions taken to help them and how effective these are.  A historical introduction ranges from early plant lists to diaries of ladies referring to their gardens and stillrooms. Gilbert Whites’ diary adds comments on wildlife and climate.


This leads into guidance on making a vibrant personal record using pressed specimens, photography, sketches and notes. These can then be related to the environment in terms of soil, climate, moon phases etc. The inter-relationships of birds, insects and animals with the plants will be brought into focus as we turn the pages. Recording and encouraging butterflies in the garden is one aspect of ecological importance. These records as a whole add new interest and understanding of the ecology of the garden, not forgetting some companion planting for best results.


Arabic Influence – Exotics and Pharmacy.

Friday 2nd August. 9.30am – 4.30pm, £65



As the habitat of the precious spices and aromatic gums such as myrrh, olibanum, and cinnamon Arabia supplied these for western medicine. However the extent of the Arabic influence on medical training and in particular the practice of the apothecary was so much greater than sourcing drugs. We will be looking at contacts with the East from the pilgrimage of Alfred the Great to Jerusalem and his receiving a prescription from the Patriarch there, travels and translations of Arabic texts by Adelard of Bath, and Crusaders eating oranges at Jaffa. The fusion of Arabic, Greek and Roman medicine at the teaching hospital in Salerno where returning Crusaders were treated, ensured  the use of nutmegs, cloves, ginger, tamarinds, senna, rhubarb, saffron, liquorice, and distilled rose water in the west. A day for the art of the apothecary to come to the fore with the works of Avicenna, Mesue and Rhazes giving us exciting recipes to make.


Celtic Herbs.

Saturday 3rd August. 9.30-4.30pm, £65.


The course takes place in the Anglo-Saxon house at the Museum. A day to make real contact with the value of our native environment, looking at those plants available to our ancestors before the Romans came. Life in a Celtic round house has left only archaeology to enlighten us but we will be using the oldest surviving source of Celtic medicinal recipes from the Book of Howel the Physician. In gathering herbs, and preparing salves, poultices and herb drinks we can explore the vital importance of native herbs in diet, medicine, dyes and other crafts. Betony, vervainwoad, mistletoe, yarrow, elder, hawthorn, nettle and chickweed are a sample of the herbs you will meet on the day in their widest uses.


Herbs for Health.

Sunday 4th August. 9.30-4.30pm, £65.


The origins of the herbaceous border lie in growing herbs for home remedies in the past. Led by a medical herbalist, the course offers guidance on the most safe and useful herbs to grow and how to harvest and use or preserve them. A practical day ensures careful identification, instruction on the individual herbs and experience in making a footbath, herbal honey syrup, herbal teas, an infused oil, a herb pillow and more.

Applications for bites and stings, bruises and irritated skin are taken from a selection of historical and modern recipes covering everyday problems from sore throats to diarrhoea. This will be a day illustrating effective traditional use of herbs. Some herbs featured: marshmallow, fennel, elder, chamomile, lemon balm, thyme, sage, pot marigold, chickweed, houseleek, ribwort plantain, lavender...


Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Richmond, London

For more information and to download a booking form - go to www.kew.org/learn/talks-courses/   

Planning and Tending the Herb Garden.

Saturday 20th July.

This will be a day of introduction for those who might wish to have their own herb garden. It will give the opportunity to consider the practicality of what might work in your own space from both the point of view of design and harvesting. Examples of growing herbs which are both decorative and useful either in small urban settings or larger country gardens, will offer inspiration for planting schemes exploring use of colours, forms, foliage textures and perfumes to gain the best effect. The medieval ideals of beauty, usefulness and pleasing aromas in the garden will inform us on choices to be made.

Whether your aim is a wildflower garden having a natural appearance, an ordered serenity with a knot or a selection of potted herbs to brighten and transform a balcony or patio, there will be something for everyone. Getting to know the herbs involved will be through slides, herbarium samples and an all-important walk in Kew gardens to see the plants growing and literally smell the roses. Main uses of all herbs mentioned will be given. Pencil and drawing paper is not obligatory but you may wish to make sketches of ideas on the day for later. More detailed uses of the herbs may be further explored on a second day.   





Herbal History Research Network.   www.herbalhistory.org                                                                           

Hampstead Heath Education Centre. Parliament Fields, Gospel Oak, London  NW5 1LT                                                                                              

Details and booking Alison Denham denham.alison@gmail.com


Distillation in Herbal medicine: Early Pharmacy to Today.

Saturday 13th July. 10am-4.30pm. £60/Students £45.

Spaces limited.

Discover the history and practice of botanical medicine and aromatics including talks and practical demonstration of distillation methods.


Arabic medicine to Practical Distilling:                                             Joe Nasr MNIMH of Avicenna Herbs.

Recipes Interpreted: The pharmacy and the stillroom:              Christina Stapley MCCP, HHRN.