Hooker & Tamsyn and Gorilla planting in Halesworth

Oh what delight to rock up on the bike, peddling fast down Norwich hill by skin of teeth to meet the 11 o’clock rendez-vous to find Tamsyn leading the Hooker trail around Halesworth, this Hooker celebration weekend. Of course, she was. She is after all, Halesworth in Bloom inspirer, a great gardener, creator, mover and shaker. Dressed in a red jacket and going to hospital in a week for major surgery, she was accompanied by her two supportive foot soldiers, her husband Michael and their fine daughter over from America. Both so attentive, allowing Tamsyn to flourish and lead the way. How we love her.

Hooker trailAnd Friends were here too, Gill, Virginia, Stephanie, who it transpires has been a secret planter of bulbs on common parkland, and a gorilla planter along roads sides – I never imagined her to be so quietly revolutionary. She has worked with Tamsyn on this Hooker celebration and helped to plant out some of the official plantations – which we will come to later. As always salutory to find new out about ones friends.

We start looking at Hooker House – now our local dentist.  The Georgian house is smaller than it was then – we can observe more from the back, a whole west wing is missing. Destabalised by the Metfield Bomb – which blew  out all the windows  and someone on our walk remembers it going off –  it had to be demolished. In place is the Halesworth by pass, as well as a somewhat ugly 1970’s housing development and inevitable car park. ‘But as ugly as this is’,  Tamsyn observes with her usual political balance, ‘without it we wouldn’t have our wonderful Park.’  She is so right. Planters outside contain the scented winter box Sarcococca hookeriana and a Rhododentron from Nepal introduced by Joseph Hooker.

The Hooker family lived only 14 years in Halesworth. William, originally from Norwich, and his wife settled here in 1800, investing in a Halesworth brewing business, but his heart was not in brewing but in botany. Their  son Joseph was born here, before all their adventurous lives took them to different geographies, first to Glasgow and then to London Kew. Tamsyn’s  view is that William would have lived his sons more adventurous life, in the footsteps of Darwin, his contemporary, had he the chance, but his path was more rooted in the UK, as William foundered Kew, was its first director, adding 300 acres, a library and the Temperate houses.

Both William and Joseph were multi faceted and talented. Without any formal training William went to Glasgow as Professor of Botany, built up a reputation, for plant knowledge and remedies and as an illustrator. In that same informal way he became the first director of Kew. His son Joseph was equally faceted, a surgeon, geologist, painter, writer, botanist and  climber – all necessary attributes for a traveller.

Tamsyn leading Hooker trail

Town Park – here the Bloomers led by Tamsyn have planted 15 Hooker related plants around the edge of the Park (some I’d say precariously close to mature trees). The first is the Giant Redwood: ‘We are optimistic’, says Tamsyn, and she is. A Hooker Oak, Blue Bamboo from the Eastern Himalayas, and a hedge of rhododentron of course beside the Blyth navigation. Representing Darwin, a Berberis Darwinii from his Beagle voyage. Stynix Hookeri, snowbell tree- common in India, and source of benzoin used in ancient medicine as an antibacteria. Finally a Magnolia, Heaven Scent.

Tamsyn leading Hooker trail-3Tamsyn leading Hooker trail-4Tamsyn leading Hooker trail-5Tamsyn leading Hooker trail-6Tamsyn leading Hooker trail-7

We ended at the Church and Memorial Garden, and a repeat of the Sarcococca hookeriana, an evergreen shrub also known as Himalayan sweet box – aromatic white flowers thorughout winter. Can we buy any of these I ask? Good idea, says Tamsyn, let’s get some propagated for sale.
‘Here we’ve created one of our compost areas – so we don’t have to cart or pay for compost for this area.’ There she goes, still campaigning, and planning for a future of which her role in it is uncertain with a huge surgery in a few days and a life of may be a few years after it. She is a remarkable woman, and inspirer to us all in Halesworth.

…..

We – Virginia and I – repaired to the Halesworth Gallery where painters were painting flowers in AAA pens through magnifying glass to add to an exhibition of botanically painted flowers. Full of unexpected journey’s in our little town, we took coffee at the Boarding house in the garden with Brin who allowed me to take her photograph.

Professor John Parker (ex Clare Hall botanic garden) gave us the most enthrawling lecture. He loved his subject and it showed. It centered on a map of East Anglian with 4 names in different geography’s:  Hookers of Halesworth, Smith of Norwich, Dawson Turner of Great Yarmouth and Henslow of Stowmarket. Henslow was his passion.

We stand on the shoulders of Giants – so said Newton, probably the most arrogant of scientists.

JAMES EDWARD SMITH – NORWICH was a botanist specialising in Chicory. By dint of circumstance – right place right time –  he became the founder of the Linean Society because he bought the whole collection (King of Sweden evidently sent a boat to catch him up but he got away) for the bargain price of £1,000. The focal point of botany, became 29 Surrey Street, Norwich.

WILLIAM JACKSON HOOKER was born 1785 in Norwich (of Devon Family, from whom he inherrited, therefore didn’t have to work, could indulge in science) He confined his attention to botany, on the recommendation of James Edward Smith whom he had consulted respecting a rare Moss. Buxbaumia – never been seen before or since.  He held the post of Botany at Glasgow University before becoming Director of Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. His son, Joseph Dalton Hooker, succeeded him to the Directorship of Kew Gardens.

DAWSON TURNER – Great Yarmouth 1775 – 1858 was an English Banker (Gurney and Turner) botanist and antiquary. He lived in Bank House amongst a fantastic art collection. Smith recommended Hooker consult Turner and Hooker became a regular visitor. Romance blossomed between Turners daughter, Maria, and Hooker and they married and moved to Halesworth for 7 years. Maria’s mother was Elizabeth Cotman, the only daughter of the mayor of Yarmouth John Cotman. Dawson Turner and his children were taught drawing by renowned artist John Sell Cotman, who became a good friend. They travelled to Normandy together and collaborated on a book, Architectural Antiquities of Normandy, published in 1822, with Cotman providing the etchings.

JOHN STEVENS HENSLOW (1796 – 1861) Stowmarketd. A Priest, botanist geologist. He is best remembered as the friend and mentor to his pupil Charles Darwin. A Cambridge professor, Darwin through his pupilege at Cambridge wrote down his ‘Questions for Henslow’. In the summer of 1831 Henslow was offered a place as naturalist to sail aboard the survey ship HMS Beale on a two year voyage to South America, but his wife dissuaded him from accepting. Seeing a perfect opportunity for his protégé, Henslow wrote to the ship’s captain telling him that Darwin was the ideal man to join the expedition team. So it was that Darwin collected plants for Henslow. These plants, bought back from the voyage were identified by  Joseph Hooker.

Connections before the www.

 

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