Vicky Chown

Vicky Chown is a medical herbalist, forager and gardener. She teaches permaculture and urban food growing in Queen’s Wood Community Garden and OmVed Gardens in London - where she also co-organises The Seed Saving Network - a biodiverse community of seed savers in London and across the United Kingdom.

Vicky also co-runs, alongside Kim Walker, The Handmade Apothecary, a foraging and herbal educational project. Together they have co-authored two books: The Handmade Apothecary and The Herbal Remedy Handbook.

Describe the nature around you?

A woodland permaculture garden, damp and rugged, surrounded by hornbeam, oak and ivy.

How can we understand ourselves as part of nature?

I find it hard not to. But if ever I feel that start to slip, I think of the micro and the macro. The macro is obvious: us being a tiny dot on the surface of another tiny dot that is actually our vast earth, floating around in the inconceivably huge cosmos. Then the micro: the billions of bacteria in our bodies that outnumber our own human cells and are entirely essential to our metabolic processes and survival, just like the trillions of microbes in the soil under our feet. It's all synergistically connected from the tiniest level to the grandest.

How did you first start becoming interested in holistic healing and the benefits of plants?

I'm not entirely sure how it started, I grew up in London quite removed from open, natural spaces. We ate a lot of processed food and watched a lot of TV but I always gravitated towards being out in the garden, picking flowers and making potions with petals and mud. Then I started getting acne as a teenager and looking for remedies to treat it - natural face masks, supplements and herbal teas etc. And the interest grew from there.

What lessons have you learned from nature?

That we are not separate from it. Nature is cyclical and seasonal and so are we. Observing these cycles is so important, it goes against fast, modern culture and allows us to slow down and live more holistically.

Do you have a favourite herb at the moment? If so, which one and why?

It is impossible to choose one, they are all magical and all have their place.

How can gardens heal ourselves and our communities?

The benefits of gardens and greenery are complex and innumerable, from mental health, physical health, environmental health and generally bringing communities together. Gardening and growing food harks to something ancient within us, it makes us feel empowered and connected and I believe even small, patchwork gardens across the world can initiate important and significant change. In the current consumerist norm, growing a garden is taking a stand. It is peaceful anarchy.

What book/song/poem best describes nature as you see it?

I'm currently reading Entangled Life By Merlin Sheldrake, it's a beautiful book looking at the interconnectedness of all things by zooming in on fungi.

What sound in nature do you love the most?

Running water, especially a river or spring; a rare one to hear in London.

Which rituals do you practice to keep you grounded and connected to the outer world?

Currently not enough. Observing the seasons is a must though. I'd like to incorporate more ritual in my work, I will be taking inspiration from biodynamic methods next year.

Alongside your apothecary practice, you are also one of the founding members of the Seed Saving Network. Why is seed saving so important for our future?

Throughout history, humans have saved seed from their crops as part of the cycles of life. Due to population growth, a rise in industrial farming and hybridised crop varieties we have lost 93% of our seed species in the last 100 years. A lack of crop diversity leaves the food system vulnerable, particularly in a changing climate and culture. Seed saving keeps our heritage and heirloom varieties alive, leading to more resistant and diverse crops and a more secure food system.

You can find out more about Vicky work by following: OmVed Gardens The Seed Saving Network and Handmade Apothecary

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