Sophie Roe, writing in The Inkcap Journal has a feature on the botanist Margaret Bradshaw who is 96 years old, “and something of a legend among botanists”. For the last seven decades, she has made an obsessive study of the rare flowers of Teesdale, and there is no one alive today who better understands the beautiful and unusual plants that have survived for so long in this remote corner of northeast England.

Sophie says “Margaret lives in the small village of Eggleston, her house sandwiched between a miniature meadow of her own creation and a field that she leases to a local sheep farmer. The setting is a microcosm of her life’s interests. She was born into a farming family in the Yorkshire Wolds in 1926, and farming, she says, still runs in her blood. “I suppose if I had been a boy, I would have gone into farming,” she says. Instead, she pursued a degree in botany and zoology at Leeds University, after which she moved to the edge of Teesdale, taking up a job as a teacher in a girls’ school in Bishop Auckland 1951.  The decision to uproot herself was based on little more than hearsay about the area’s rare flowers. “I had in my mind there was this place called Teesdale that had something special about its flora,” she says. “It was the plants that drew me.” Weekends and Friday evenings were spent walking the fells, sometimes covering tens of miles in a single day, trying to find rare plants and learning to identify them. Occasionally, she was joined by other teachers, but often these explorations were undertaken alone.

A chance meeting with the Cambridge botanist Max Walters led Margaret to develop a particular interest in a group of plants called Lady’s Mantles – or Alchemilla in Latin. “In one of my early efforts, I collected some Alchemillafrom a meadow in Teesdale. And I picked up one that turned out to be new to the country,” she recalls. Her amateur pursuit of Lady’s Mantles ultimately led to a doctorate in botany at Durham University. Soon after finishing her studies.

There’s more about this remarkable woman so read on …  

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