The Clearing is a vision of the future in the grounds of Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park

Caretaker report

22 July 2017

The Clearing

Workshop 11 - Making Medicine

The Clearing is covered in plants, herbs, pulled up from the roots. Even before the workshop begins, it feels really calm.

The leaders, Rasheeqa Ahmad and Sara Ghanchi, are trained medical herbalists, and members of Herbalists Without Borders, a collective who travel to places like ‘the Jungle’ refugee camp in Calais, to help people access alternative medicine. This workshop aims to introduce people to ways we might stay well or get better in a future without modern medicine on hand.

We go on a foraging walk into the little wood that surrounds The Clearing, to find out what medicinal plants are growing locally. We come back to the dome and drink teas made with different medicinal herbs, talking about how they taste, eyes closed. The rain is on and off. We pass Yarrow around and sniff it. We begin to make a healing balm from the herbs we’ve gathered, rosemary, St John’s Wort. When the sun shines, we sit in a circle, and pass the plants around. There’s a lot of note-taking today, a lot of questions. This workshop is soft and serious. No gags.

We make a comfrey poultice, passing the saucepan round so that everyone can stir the mixture. Comfrey root, we learn, is called ‘knitbone’ – so called because it promotes cell proliferation and tissue healing, so was used to heal broken bones and cuts. Over the course of the workshop, it goes springy. People practice putting the poultice on their fingers. It seems really alien.

Can this take the place of accident and emergency for a broken leg? Probably not. But the speed of this workshop, the slowness, the calm of being in the dome with these plants, these people, is a tonic in itself.