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Tour of the Medicinal Garden at the

Royal College of Physicians

                                            Aldersgate Ward Club: visit to the Medicinal Garden and Royal College of Physicians


Whoohey, this one was a good 'un. But the weather definitely didn't look very promising for a garden tour when we first arrived at the Royal College of Physicians at the corner of Regent’s Park, even though we were all keeping our fingers crossed that the heavy rain would stop and hoping that the weather forecasters were right and that improvements were a’coming.


It began to look as though our visit might end up as an internal tour of the building – a wonderful Corbusier-inspired construction - but our host Dr Henry Oakeley wasn't concerned. While we waited for developments, he introduced us to a glass case full of an amazing collection of blue and white Delftware apothecary jars dating from the 1640s until 1745. You really wouldn't want to know what the apothecaries concocted in them. Just be thankful that you didn't have to consume any of the contents - or had need of them.


Henry was a lovely raconteur and very funny as he described what the old physicians used as ingredients in centuries past – ranging from incinerated earthworms to swallows - and it was great fun for him watching our faces and then telling us whether the treatments worked. Mostly they didn't! The jars were beautiful and I loved the hand–painted lettering on them.


The weather started to improve but then coffee and biscuits were on the itinerary. So we had a break to talk amongst ourselves, always fascinating with any group of AWC members.


The rain had now kindly stopped and so we stepped out onto the terrace. I must admit I thought this was going to be a massive garden. Well it was big and it contains over 1300 medicinal plants. A lot were large and quite a lot were insignificant looking but that didn't mean that their natural ingredients were less effective.


The garden had been planted into sections representing the different continents of the world. As we wandered up the path, the gardeners were amongst us sweeping the lawn and collecting leaves. It smelt lovely after the rain. Henry had us guessing as to what this or that plant could be possibly used for and giving us clues by spouting their Latin names. This was all right for some of the 'scholars' amongst us but most of us had no idea and when he told us, we all nodded our heads sagely at his answers and muttering 'oh, of course’. He then went on to say that the scientists took it much further and that they developed drugs from these plants that we still use today everyday with such uses as a statin, steroid or contraceptive! As I said, he was deliciously humorous and it was a treat watching his face watching our faces and his telling us the stories of the plants.


I can't tell you all the stuff Henry came out with - he's been studying botany and medicine a long time - but there was something for everyone. I loved it. I only wish my own doctor was as funny!


It was an eight-minute walk to our lunch (not taking into account trying to get across Marylebone Road!) and we sat down in the elegant Kibele restaurant to an excellent and generous Turkish lunch, finally finishing at 3pm with a pleasant journey home and great memories. Thanks Chris. Lovely!


Brian Heppell


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