Baggeridge Country Park was the venue for some ghastly Halloween potions and witches’ brews this week, when a group of young people braved the wind and rain to learn about the medicinal uses and folklore of herbs.
The event was one of a series of activities held at the park in Gospel End Road, Sedgley, during half term, which aim to get local people involved with nature and the stunning countryside available on their doorstep. Other activities included making broomsticks from scratch using the natural materials available in abundance.
Park manager, Steve Gallis, says: “It was great to find that, despite it being a wet and pretty miserable afternoon, eight young people turned up for potions class. We looked at the ‘magical’ medical uses and folklore of wild herbs and brewed up some bubbling potions – nobody minded about the rain!
“The potions class involved the use of a variety of fun ‘ingredients’ such as badger dribble, slug bile, dragons blood and unicorn tears – all completely made up for effect with coloured water mixed with bicarbonate of soda which, when mixed with the ‘magic’ ingredient (vinegar), gives a very impressive bubbling potion.
“Before mixing our witches’ brews, we had a look at a range of plants and the folklore and medicinal uses. We looked at willow, the bark of which was used to cure headache – not surprising really, as it contains salicylic acid, which is basically Aspirin.
“Other plants, such as like Yew, are really quite poisonous, although this now has a modern medicinal use as the poison Taxine, which has been used as the basis for the cancer drug Taxol.
“The tree which is supposed to protect against poisoning is the oak – apparently a concoction of its bark protects you against poison. There may be some truth in this, as it would contain a lot of tannin which would probably stop the stomach from absorbing anything – never mind poison!
“We also looked at mugwort, which was believed to protect against magic spells. Another nice little tale about this plant says that if you bury a piece of coal under the mugwort, leave it a month then dig it up by the light of the full moon and then place it under your pillow, then that night you will dream of the person you are going to marry!
“A lot of people know St John’s wort, as it is widely used as a natural anti- depressant and was known back in the 1600’s as a ‘cure for the melancholy’.
“It also has an interesting bit of folklore about helping women who have difficulty getting pregnant. The tale suggests dancing naked around the St John’s wort plant. I can’t remember whether it was supposed to be by moonlight or at dawn, but either way, you can see how it might be effective!”
Steve is a mine of information and this event was no doubt helped by his regular informative updates on the country park’s Facebook page, which has shown how social media can become and invaluable tool for engaging the local community.
Since setting up the page earlier this year, Steve has seen increased interest in Baggeridge and its stunning landscape, which is home to a wide variety of wildlife.
Subscribers regularly upload photos of the park in all its glory, revealing the
He says: “Some people don’t realise they’ve got all this wonderful nature on their doorstep. The Facebook page is a great way of publicising it and getting them involved.”
Formally the Baggeridge Colliery and part of the original Himley Estate of the Earls of Dudley, the site has now been transformed into 150 acres of attractive country park.