Audrey Fraysse has come over from France to carry out research in the pharmacology department at the University of Durham. While here she has been volunteering at the physic garden every Saturday, a most brilliant help to Dilston, looking after the Chamomile Lawn and the Sage Garden.

Here are Audrey’s thoughts on her experience.

A piece of peace in a chamomile lawn

How far can a book bring you? A guide from your French countryside to the way of Dilston Physic Garden, a small herbal universe that embodied the complementarity between tradition, knowledge from the past, and science. A contemplation of this bridge in the heart of Northumberland.

A moment of rest in the eye of gale, a point of steadiness in a camomile lawn. Scrub yourself with the real, take a fork and deep into the warren of this chamomile entangled with clover. From the images of a book to the lightness of livings, the reception of what is not etched in pages, but the experience of what is offered in this chlorophyllous leaves, this enlightening silence.

Bending down, rediscovering this earth we have strayed from, and this deposit of attention in this piece of humus veiled of lowly seeds. The being put back to its place by this fragment of brownish soil, the man who finds his land again and carry on this swaying sky contemplation’s, standing between earth and heaven.

Weeding, this creation of emptiness for a time only, and then the metamorphosis of this blank in a floor sprinkled with startling weeds. The cycle passes, and those little hands attempt to remove this clover that clutters, this maze of depths. Holding on the Ariadne’s thread, trying to wind up to the spring, this clover root that never ends and mesmerized our folded brains.

A movement to the sage garden, removing these old sleeping leaves, death for some, birth for others, on an amber and woody fragrance bed. And here arises the little robin, the one who whispers a few winged words, wonderment and a smile appear. A promenade for your nose, a dance of whiffs turns in your head, and scented dreams of wormwood, sage, and thyme thrive.

Here goes a wind of gratefulness for this physic garden, to all those hands and minds that gave it birth, this home for this sentient flora, for the winged beings, and for the passers-by of a time. And a breath of gratitude to the person that put the book Botanical Brain Balms into my hands, a gift that pointed out a way for small steps in northern dust.

More about Audrey’s research at Durham

In the lab in the Bioscience Department (animal cells and systems) at Durham University, Audrey is working on cells and fruit flies. She is testing a combination of a five plants for effects on a model of a post-concussion syndrome (people who have had one or multiple traumatic brain injury which can lead to long-term symptoms). Looking to see if there are reductions in oxidative stress (reactive oxygen and nitrogen species) and inflammation, and if there are any behavioural changes, from the results so farthe plant combination seems to have a positive impact on fruit flies.