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The small learned society is a mainstay of British amateur natural history. Continuing the work of the gentleman-naturalists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, amateur enthusiasts today still provide a formidable body of data and research on the subject of British wildlife.
I’ve been lucky enough to sit on both sides of the blanket-covered table at many such local societies over the years, be it a horticultural society, a natural history society, or even a women’s institute. It is often after the lecture (when I’m giving it, anyway) that the interesting part begins; and I am struck by how some members of these modest institutions seem to be the storehouse for a unique depth of local knowledge and wisdom that cannot readily be accessed any other way. That enjoyably fascinating – and slightly scary – feeling the novice gets when talking to someone with a wealth of knowledge and experience was also engendered in me when reading Faith Anstey’s newly-published book, “Flowers in the Field, how to find, identify and enjoy wild flowers”.