Ellen Hutchins-inspired book is perfect for the pandemic

March 5th, 2021 8:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

Rory Hodd’s guide to the joys to be found in Bantry Bay.

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A NEW book from the Ellen Hutchins Festival in Bantry aims to encourage a love of local nature.

Mosses and Liverworts: an introductory guide to the Bantry Bay area by Rory Hodd features photos, clear descriptions and helpful diagrams, to provide an introduction to a fascinating miniature world so easily overlooked.

There is also a free leaflet (downloadable from the website) suitable for families and children,  Micro-nature Guide to Bryophytes of West Cork. Bryophyte is the botanists’ name for mosses and liverworts. Ballylickey’s Ellen Hutchins was Ireland’s first female botanist and bryophytes were an important part of her incredible story.  ‘There are some parallels between her situation and ours now in lockdown,’ says her great great grand niece Madeline Hutchins. ‘Ellen was confined to home and walking distance from it, in her case by caring responsibilities for her ill mother and a disabled brother. She had to make her own amusements, as she called them. A family friend suggested botany and gave her books and she had a magnifying glass or hand lens.’

Finding the plants gave a purpose to going on walks, identifying them could be done while out and when back home – taking only small samples, leaving lots growing. ‘Looking at these tiny plants through a hand lens, or for us, a mobile phone camera, reveals beautiful details that the human eye cannot see,’ adds Madeline. ‘There is a whole miniature world out there waiting to be explored. West Cork is a wonderful place for mosses and liverworts and winter is as good a time as any to journey into this micro world which provides amusement for all ages.’

The book is €12 from and An Explorer’s Pack is available with leaflets on seaweeds, lichens and bryophytes, a hand lens on a lanyard, a tree trail and an all-important weatherproof map case to keep them clean and dry. The recently revamped website explains Ellen’s story further.

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