Words On Nature
By Emily Seccombe
2019 CoalitionWILD Ambassador
Reading has always been a way to open doors to different worlds and an opportunity to see life from a different perspective. Like many others, I find solace in reading, as a form of escape and discovery. Public libraries have always been a place of calm for me – I engross myself in choosing books and forget about the world outside. I am grateful for the shelter they provide, the distraction from the mundane, the opportunities to explore.
This may seem a strange start to a blog on a conservation website, but is integral to the project I set up as part of my time as a CoalitionWILD Ambassador. Books are the way in which I discovered the world, including the power and beauty of the natural world, being entranced by old copies of David Attenborough’s books, and later on by new nature writing. Nature is woven throughout fiction of all sorts, including features in childhood classics such as Frances Hodgson Burnet’s The Secret Garden. I wanted to celebrate the cultural value of nature and find a way to bring together my love of reading and wildlife, so I set up the Florilegium project.
I first heard the word Florilegium in a podcast which looks at fiction using sacred reading practices. One of the practices they used was florilegium, where they selected their favourite lines (“sparklets”) from a given chapter, and discussed why those lines stood out to them. I was entranced by the word as it sounded like it had something to do with flowers, so I investigated further.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a Florilegium as “a collection of the flowers of literature”. Essentially, a florilegium is a compilation of excerpts from other writings. The word was mainly used in Medieval Europe by those studying sacred texts to collate short excerpts of particular beauty. The Greek word ‘anthology’ also means a collection of flowers.
In my CoalitionWILD Ambassador project, I brought together the two meanings of the word Florilegium: a collection of flowers and a collection of quotes. This was done by creating wildflower beds outside libraries and inscribing the planters with beautiful quotes about nature. Mindful Florilegium workshops were run to explore the role of nature in literature and select the quotes. These workshops were the most rewarding part of the project, as I saw attendees exploring poetry, Shakespeare, fiction and fact, digging up the quotes that stood out to them as meaningful or beautiful. One was with a local youth group of Mind, a UK-based mental health charity. Several of the workshop attendees came up with their own poetry about how nature made them feel, and illustrated their work with drawings of flowers and animals.
Some highlights of the quotes we unearthed include:
All the planters were produced by a local Men in Sheds group. The Men in Sheds project was set up to provide community spaces for people to connect and create, whilst also reducing isolation and loneliness. The wildflower seed used was all locally sourced, native meadow flower mix, in order to provide food for native insect species and increase native wildflower planting in urban areas.
Emily cultivating one of the planters with locally sourced wildflower seeds.
This was the first project that I have had the opportunity to see through from creation to delivery, and I intend to use the learning experience to deliver more ambitious future projects that will deliver significant benefits to both nature and local communities. I hope the wildflower planters and their quotes will inspire people to think about the value of nature to them. Ultimately, the project hopes to bring a smile to someone’s face, and some nectar to a bee.
I would like to thank CoalitionWILD for their support, and express my gratitude to Grow Wild, the national outreach initiative of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, for their funding.
Emily is passionate about conservation, and has a love for amphibians. She is the Mentoring Officer for A Focus on Nature, the UK’s youth nature network, and is a part of the UK Youth for Nature campaign-based movement. She has worked on several conservation projects for leading UK conservation organisations. Emily is a 2019 CoalitionWILD Ambassador.