A few words about Margaret Hartley who recently passed away peacefully at home.

The earliest record I can find of Margaret’s association with the Botany Group of the Field Society is in 1992 when the meeting went to Fountains Abbey. In 1993 she became secretary of the group with Carol Johnson as leader. She also served on the committee in the 1990s and again in the early 2000s and in 2004 was President of the Society. Margaret and I worked together for many years as Secretary and Leader of the Botany Group.

One of the early highlights at this time was the discovery of the SSSI at Kilnsey Flush. The manager of the Trout Farm had been booked to do a talk and I remember not been too enthused about the topic. Whilst telling the meeting about the Trout Farm, he mentioned the SSSI and Margaret and I asked if we could visit, which was arranged. It must have been the spring time as I still vividly remember our exclamations at the number of Early Purple Orchids Orchis mascula – Oh Margaret, Oh Christine. Not long after that Margaret organised a count of the different Orchids on the site and mapped them. Since then the site has been visited each year by the group. Sadly since those days, invasive species have become more prominent, but the Orchids still appear.

Early Purple Orchids

Another highlight was when Kilnsey Flush was chosen for one of the sites in the Yorkshire Dales for the re-introduction of the Lady’s Slipper Orchid Cypripedium calceolus. Margaret took part in the replanting and while ever she went out with us we monitored the progress of the orchids together. There was great excitement when the plants first flowered.

Lady’s Slipper Orchid

She was much missed in the group, when health problems prevented her from coming out with us, but we had one more botany meeting together. We had never seen the Lady’s Slipper in its only UK wild site which is in our area. Others had been more fortunate having been taken by the farmer on whose land the Orchid grew. In its flowering period it used to be guarded and may still be. A few years ago, several people who had been instrumental in the growing and resiting of the Orchid were coming to visit Kilnsey to see the plants in flower and then go on to the wild site. Margaret and I were invited to meet them and go with them. It was a lovely sunny day and we both enjoyed the chat over lunch and then the expedition over some quite difficult terrain to reach the site. I think we were both disappointed to find the plants in poor condition and the whole area being overtaken by scrub. Staff have changed now at Natural England and it hasn’t been possible to find out if the Orchid is still being protected there.

At some point Margaret went on courses for botanical illustration and had a real talent for this. She gave me a copy of the painting that she had done of the Lady’s Slipper Orchid.

Some of the present members of the Botany Group did not have the pleasure of knowing Margaret  But those who did know her, will remember her for her botanical expertise, always generously shared, her kindness and good humour, and friendly and happy companionship.

Christine Bell.