Afloat on birdsong, hawthorn petals and young leaves
Sept. 5, 2021

(Un)Naming of Parts

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How did the willow threaten a powerful king? What has bloody fingers to do with St Withburga? How much does our knowledge of the world dictate the way you see it? The names we give things are useful (vital even), but they are not passive. Names frame the way we view the world. In this week’s episode (with apologies to Henry Reed) we ‘unname the parts’ to find how rediscovering local names and stories can connect us in new (or older) ways with our environment. 

Journal entry:

“3rd September, Friday

The night’s tide is flowing back into the mornings
 Darkness drifts on the down of thistle and ragwort.

Penny and I will soon be needing bat’s eyes.
 And each morning
     We walk out of the friendly darkness
 Into the cold light
      And the one tree that has become my pole star.”         

Episode Information

In this episode I read a short extract from E Temple Thurston’s (1911) The Flower of Gloster. For more details see Episode 38: Temple Thurston’s ‘Flower of Gloster’ (Summer readings 2).

The lock keeper’s cottage at Lowsonford, mentioned in the extract, is now owned by the Landmark Trust and can be hired out for holidays. Details and booking can be found here: ‘Lengthman’s Cottage’ at Lowsonford

You can read the story of King Labhraidh Loingseach and his horses ears in (among many other places) Niall Mac Coitir’s (2016) Ireland’s Trees: Myths, legends and folklore published by The Collins Press. 

I also refer to Roy Vickery’s (2019) magnificent Vickery’s Folk Flora: An A-Z of the folklore and uses of British and Irish plants published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

You can find more information on the plant cuckoo-pint or lords and ladies at: wildfooduk:lordsandladies

I conclude this episode by reading RS Thomas’ poem ‘The Bright Field’ from his () Later Poems 1972-1982 published by Papermac. You can read it here: The Bright Field. You can also hear RS Thomas reading it here: RS Thomas reads ‘The Bright Field’.

 General Details

In the intro and the outro, Saint-Saen's The Swan is performed by Karr and Bernstein (1961) and available on CC at

Two-stroke narrowboat engine recorded by 'James2nd' on the River weaver, Cheshire. Uploaded on 23rd June 2018. Creative Commons Licence. 

Piano interludes composed and performed by Helen Ingram.

All other audio recorded on site. 

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