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URHP Conference 2019: Review

Purley Chase was bathed in sunlight as we arrived with eager anticipation for our yearly conference. This was a brilliant start to the weekend: to be able to sit down together in the sunshine outside with a cuppa and a delicious cake to chat and reconnect, while welcoming old friends and newcomers alike.

A huge amount of work had gone into the planning and organisation of this event from the conference team and this paid off with a smooth running welcoming team, ready with packs for each attendee and guidance and information about the weekend for those that needed it. From beginning to end, the whole conference was infused perfectly with learning and laughter, wisdom and wit with a generous helping of collaboration and communication - the ideal recipe for a nourishing and joyous herbal gathering.

The inspiring and highly motivated Rosemary Umolo was our first speaker and she gave us all an overview of her 'Periods, not Pills' campaign to bring knowledge and understanding of the menstrual cycle to school girls and how they can be empowered to take their health issues around painful and difficult periods into their own hands. She also illustrated her herbal approaches by discussing case studies. Rosemary's talk was really enlightening, particularly as she has found ways of connecting with service providers in the school environment.

After supper, we were delighted to have a talk from one of our council members, Liz Lyden, about the incredible healing and balancing powers of Phylak Spagyrics. This truly is a mode of treatment that has the magic of herbal alchemy at its core. We were entranced as Liz explained as simply as she could, how this type of herbal medicine acts upon the human system at all levels. She talked us through several case studies and also generously offered to make each one of us a Spagyric constitutional remedy to take home with us.

Saturday was full to the brim with much diverse and valuable learning from our speakers, as well as all of us making the most of connecting in bright and often fascinating conversations with each other. We can sometimes underestimate how powerful it is to sit together with other practitioners and soak up the mutual experience and wisdom that abounds.

Our first speaker of the day was Joe Nasr from Avicenna who talked us through the joysand delights of aromatic herbs and gave us a practical demonstration of actually producing an aromatic water from the beautiful mint plant that he had brought along. The distilling equipment itself is a wonderful sight to behold and we all thoroughly enjoyed watching the distillate gradually appearing and then being able to swoon over its unique aroma. As always, Joe kept our attention with his wise and witty explanations of these special plants that are so close to his heart.

Ben Birrell from the CBD brothers followed this session and all who attended were extremely interested to hear the story of how this business began and what has grown from these original roots. Ben talked very openly and candidly about the journey to actually producing the variety of CBD oils that are available today from their company. He has had the direct experience of seeing how beneficial this compound is for children with severe disabilities and also for palliation when appropriate. He brought a press with him, so we could witness how the oil is extracted from the plant. This was a talk that gave us new insights into the world of CBD oil.

Our next speaker, Mel Hornby, and travelled from the North of England, where she has been running 'The Junior Herbalist Club' for several years. There is such great importance in instilling a love of plants and nature into children and ultimately equipping them with skills that will stay with them for life. Mel has done this on a phenomenal scale. It begun with a few interested children at a local school learning how to collect plant material and making a remedy of some description from it. This has now become a course with learning objectives and outcomes which links to the national curriculum, while the joy ofconnecting to plants remains its guiding principle. Mel is now running courses to train herbalists in becoming leaders of a Junior Herbalist Club in their own area and will soon be commencing a full time position teaching these skills in a grammar school. We were all inspired by how sheer determination combined with a vision and passion, can result in such a positive outcome for engaging children in the beauty, magic and power of herbs.

Our own Sandra O'Neill then filled the following hour with her own passion for a very special herb: Goldenseal. We all know the myriad of healing properties that this highly esteemed herb has. What Sandra gave us was an insight into how to successfully grow and nurture this plant and encouraged us to propagate it in our own gardens. Sandra andher partner have been experimenting for years to discover the best possible conditions for producing healthy, happy hydrastis and have succeeded! They manufacture their own tincture from this and a sample was passed round for us to try out - a deep and rich bitterness pervades the tongue on tasting this particular product, which meant it was sold out within minutes of the lecture finishing!

Our final talk of the day was an essential one for practising safely as a herbal practitioner: red flags. This subject was given a thorough exploration and explanation by our URHP member, Dr Edward Thompson. It is so important that we keep up to date with our medical knowledge in order to refer our patients on to the appropriate medical teams when it is necessary.

The whole day was 'full on' in a very positive way and there was much to learn and absorb from all of our speakers. This organised programme was intertwined with time for 'open space', when anyone who wanted to set up a session for learning or discussion, could do so. This opportunity was taken up by several different herbalists and the feedback was that this was a great way to explore other subjects in a more informal way.

There was a great 'buzz' of conversation around the dinner tables that evening after such a fascinating day, which carried on in the conservatory/ bar area as those who wanted to, relaxed and socialised, sharing stories, experiences and laughter.

On Sunday, the sun came out to greet us once more and we began our day with URHP member, Don Rawson, who had agreed to talk to us on the subject of 'mind the mindbody gap'. This lecture proved to be 'ab fab', yes, absolutely fabulous! Don was a psychotherapist well before he discovered the world of herbs and became a qualified herbalist. Over the years he has come to realise the critical importance of being aware of both the mind and body imbalances that his patients present with and linking these up to provide a truly holistic treatment that takes account of every area of a patient's life and environment. Don illustrated this by giving us an in depth insight into two contrasting case studies and how he dealt with each one: what was beneficial and where mistakes were made. Everyone who was there to listen to this fascinating lecture agreed that they would love to hear more at a future date.

Our own Barbara Wilkinson then led those who wanted to go, on a herbal walk, which delighted the senses and enlivened the brain! Barbara has an innate ability to infect all who surround her, with her own passionate love of herbs that abound around us. She is like a walking herbal encyclopaedia and there is always so much to learn and enjoy fromthese special walks.

The AGM followed and then our final meal together to eat as well as share our thoughts and feelings about the weekend we had just experienced. It was generally felt that this had been an incredibly enjoyable conference. Those who had not attended before, were bowled over by the friendliness and warm welcome they received which pervaded thewhole gathering. Much wisdom and experience was shared and we all came away with the knowledge that this sort of herbal gathering is essential in gathering our strengths together: to share, to engage, to learn, to grow and to celebrate both our unity anddiversity.

Laura Yarham
URHP President July 2019