What a difference two hundred years has made! When Ellen Hutchins was collecting seaweeds and lichens, she would have had very little in the way of waterproof clothes or boots, and her little microscope would have had much less power than those used today. Her only means of recording and sharing with others what she saw was by making a specimen (dried plant on paper) or by drawing the plant then posting the drawing to her fellow botanist with a detailed written description.
In this year’s Ellen Hutchins Festival (Bantry to Glengarriff, August 18 – 26) you can follow in Ellen’s footsteps and see how she collected and made seaweed specimens, and how she would have been dressed when doing so. In the period setting of Seaview House Hotel, Ballylickey (built on what was Ellen’s garden) on Friday, August 24, you can learn how to write with a quill pen and oak gall ink, then how to fold your letter and seal it with wax. At Bantry House in the Loggia, on Wednesday, August 22, when the gardens are open free, an exhibition, Ellen Hutchins’ Story in 10 Objects will show books she owned, letters she wrote, an original of one of her seaweed drawings, and the type of microscope she had.
The practice of watercolour drawing has changed less than other aspects of Ellen’s story, and you can see a demonstration of botanical art by one of todays leading Irish botanical artists, Shevaun Doherty, and book a place in a workshop with her. A mini Art Trail has prints of some of Ellen’s drawings displayed in shop windows in Bantry and enlargements in Mannings Emporium in Ballylickey.
There are also great opportunities to learn about the plants of West Cork including the cryptogams or non-flowering plants that Ellen specialised in, and to use modern equipment to see them. Join leading Irish botanists, Howard Fox (NBG/ OPW) and Maria Cullen for a session on lichens etc on Snave Beach and join Dr Joanne Denyer in Glengarriff Woods for an introduction to mosses and liverworts. Howard and Maria will be at Future Forests, Kealkil, with powerful modern microscopes for adults and children to have a look at the wonders of the plant world.
Almost all the events in the Festival are free. Most you can just turn up to, but some need booking in advance, so don’t miss out. See the Festival programme online at ellenhutchins.com or the leaflets from Bantry Library and Tourist Office. Funding that enables events to be free is from FLAG South, the Heritage Council, National Parks and Wildlife Service, and Cork County Council.