A small band of volunteers are extending a hand of friendship into the past to help celebrate one of Morpeth’s famous sons.
About a dozen people have come together to form the Friends of William Turner Morpeth group, almost 450 years after the death of the ‘Father of English botany’.
Our role is to try to get the message out about William Turner and how important he was.Brian Harle, Friends of William Turner Morpeth
The group was first suggested two years ago following the success of the annual William Turner Symposium events in the town that studied the life and work of the 16th Century herbalist. However, insufficient interest was shown at the time.
Undeterred, volunteers set about generating more enthusiasm, and now the Friends group has finally been formed.
Member Brian Harle said: “We have had a symposium for the last four years to look at various aspects of William Turner’s life. As a result of that we suggested setting up a ‘friends of’ group and putting out a newsletter to see if anybody was interested.
“We did that and there was a little bit of interest, but not a lot so it didn’t happen. We then decided to make a really good newsletter to generate a bit of enthusiasm about it and from that we have managed to get a friends group.”
The group hopes to raise awareness about Turner, who was born in Morpeth and published the first systematic survey of English plants and their uses, as well as studies of birds.
One of its first tasks is to seek funding for a gazetteer, listing all the different plants, birds and fish that Turner recorded in Northumberland, and comparing the species past and present, as well as changes in names.
An initial application has been made to the Heritage Lottery Fund to find out if the project would meet the criteria to apply for a grant.
If funding can be secured, the project is expected to begin in August, ahead of the symposium in September.
And another funding bid is being made to support work with schools and the wider community about Turner.
The friends have teamed up with Northumberland Wildlife Trust, the Natural History Society of Northumbria and the Great North Museum to progress the project.
Mr Harle said: “We are working with the wildlife trust in terms of whether it has any sites that William Turner has quoted.
“It has reserves all over Northumberland so there could be a link.
“We are also keen to get involved with schools in the Morpeth area and provide whatever help we can give to encourage them to find out about William Turner.
“Not many people know about him really. A lot of people will go and sit in the William Turner Garden in Carlisle Park and think it is a nice, peaceful place, but they won’t realise what it is about.
“Our role is to try to get the message out about William Turner and how important he was.”
The friends will also work in the garden alongside park staff Emma Evans, Mark Nisbet and John Richardson, and in addition to the annual symposium they hope to hold other events through the year.
About 12 people are currently involved in the group, but more would be welcome.