The Ellen Hutchins festival welcomes home an old friend

August 17th, 2017 7:10 AM

By Southern Star Team

Howard Fox and Maria Cullen showing lichen sand seaweeds at Ardnagashel.

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THERE are some great opportunities to get up close to nature and art in and around Bantry in Heritage Week, and a rather special homecoming – for some special seaweed.

On Saturday August 19th, the third annual Ellen Hutchins Festival gets underway, celebrating the heritage, culture and landscape of Bantry Bay through the story of local girl, Ellen Hutchins of Ballylickey, who was Ireland's first female botanist and a talented botanical artist. 

On Saturday 19th in the morning join a walk on the wild side, with botanist Jo Denyer in Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve. Jo is an expert on mosses and liverworts and will provide an introduction to these plants. The group will also hunt for Hutchins' Hollywort, one of Ellen's signature plants and discovered by her. 

There is a chance to explore the shoreline and arboretum (specimen trees) at Ardnagashel on Saturday afternoon, and this time seaweeds and lichens will be under the microscope  – literally.

Howard Fox, a State Botanist (National Botanic Gardens/OPW) and Maria Cullen, enthusiastic contributors to the previous festivals, are bringing stereoscopes and compound microscopes with them to show details hidden from the human eye. 

In parallel, there will be a walk in the woods to see the native and exotic trees planted by the Hutchins family. 

Madeline Hutchins, Ellen's great great grandniece will tell the family story with a visit to the tranquil family graveyard, hidden in the woods. 

Saturday also sees the start of two exhibitions – one in Bantry Library and one downstairs in Organico Café in Bantry. At Organico you will see enlargements of Ellen's exquisitely detailed and accurate drawings of seaweed. These are shown alongside beautiful plant and fruit drawings by Shevaun Doherty, botanical artist from Dublin. The homecoming is of spectacular seaweed specimens (dried plants on paper) collected by Ellen Hutchins over 200 years ago in Bantry Bay and sent to botanists at Trinity College Dublin where they have been held in the Herbarium. 

This is their homecoming to Bantry, in a special exhibition in the library, with the letters that Ellen wrote to botanist James Mackay at Trinity, photographs and information on plants Ellen found and prints of her watercolour drawings. 

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