Thursday, 17 May 2012

In search of the Tall Thrift

Kelly and the Tall Thrift. Photograph by Anatomy Projects.

It is a shame that the biggest threat to the tall thrift is ignorance, or rather lack of interest in its plight. Outside of the nature reserve where it grows and the small village surrounding it no one is aware that the plant exists, let alone is fighting for survival.

Admittedly I’d never heard of the Tall Thrift either before agreeing to have it tattooed on my arm for life. I just loved the idea of the extInked project and wanted to take part no matter what. So when I got a phone call saying someone had got cold feet and the species I’d put down as my third choice was in need of an ambassador I eagerly agreed to get inked the following day. I didn’t even recall what species I’d chosen, poor Tall Thrift.

So I was keen to get to know my species, since we were going to be together for life. When UHC offered to send me on a road trip to go and see the plant I jumped at the chance.

Before the trip the one and only nugget of information I’d managed to discover about the Tall Thrift is that it only grows on two sites; a nature reserve in Lincolnshire and the graveyard next door. You have to admire the quirkiness of a plant that thrives nowhere but a graveyard. So on a rainy day in September myself, Gavin Parry, Dave Penny of Anatomy Projects and the Big Camera made our way across the Pennines in a van that coughed and splutter the whole way. After a couple of geographical set backs we found our way to the church in Ancaster where the plant grows and met with the warden of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.

The warden explained that the flower was 'quite thin on the ground' as one of the park workers had cut them back the previous week. It seemed everything new I learnt about the species made it even more hopeless.

But it didn’t have to be this way. Sarah the warden explained that the Tall Thrift is endangered largely because nobody is there to take care of it. The people at the Wildlife Trust care about the plant and do what they can, but with dozens of nature reserves across the county to take care of, and resources and workers stretched thinly the plant pretty much has to fend for itself.

I imagine this is the sad fate of many other endangered species, maybe even some of the species in the extInked 100. They’re dying out because nobody noticed they were in trouble, and because there isn’t enough money, or people, or interest to save them.

When I first saw the delicate pink flower growing sparsely in that graveyard I felt connected to it. And I felt sad about its dire situation. Nobody is interested apart from the Wildlife Trust, the locals, and now me. There’s no reason for the Tall Thrift to die out, and as the warden explained, no reason why it couldn’t grow elsewhere instead of battling on in one tiny corner of Lincolnshire. So, as Dave and Gavin set up the camera I set about collecting seeds.

In the van home, after an exhausting day, I sat with a carrier bag full of sandy Lincolnshire soil on my knee, and a pocketful of seeds to plant out on my allotment, and hoped that the Tall Thrift might find a new home in Manchester.

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Ambassador Testimony - In search of the Tall Thrift

Ambassador for the Tall Thrift, Armeria maritima
Kelly Parish