Saturday 30 November 2019

Interview with incoming BSBI President Lynne Farrell

Lynne on Mull
A few days ago, we brought you an interview with Chris Metherell, outgoing BSBI President, as he prepared to hand over the Presidency to Lynne Farrell. Now we catch up with Lynne herself to find out about her plans as she prepares to take over as President of the leading botanical society in Britain and Ireland.

LM: Before you tell us about your plans, could you tell us how you first got interested in botany – has it been a lifelong passion? How did you get started?

LF: When I was three years old, I remember collecting a few wild plants which grew near my home in Sale and bringing them back. A neighbour gave me the Observer’s Book of Wild Flowers when I was nine and then I could name them all.

Recording on the Mull coast
LM: Where did you study and what did you read?

LF: New University of Ulster, Coleraine, N. Ireland. Biology specialising in ecology and conservation.

LM: You have an impressive CV, having worked at Monks Wood under Terry Wells, at the Nature Conservancy, at the Biological Records Centre, at both English Nature and Scottish Natural Heritage… In fact it’s hard to think of a major nature conservation organisation that you haven’t worked for!

LF: I’ve also done a few other things, including a Fellowship at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, a Churchill Travelling Fellowship, working for An Foras Forbartha in Dublin, and helping set up the Working for Peace group in Ireland and running an inter-denominational youth group.
Chris (2nd from left), Lynne & colleagues
celebrating the launch of the Red Data List
at NBG Glasnevin, Dublin

LM: And of course in 2005, you and Chris Cheffings were joint editors of the first Vascular Plant Red Data List for Great Britain. You can read more about the Red List, and purchase a copy, here. So when did you first join BSBI and how did that come about?

LF: I joined in 1967, after hearing a discussion about the threat to Cow green reservoir and Teesdale. BSBI were supporting the campaign to protect the area.

LM: So you became active in BSBI and then you became County Recorder for the Isle of Mull - when was that? And is that where you do most of your botanising?

Lynne on Maisgeir recording her final tetrad
towards her Flora of Mull
LF: In 1996 I became County Recorder for Mull, Coll and Tiree, Mid Ebudes. There are rather more islands than you might expect in that patch! I botanise wherever I am, as I always notice the plants. Since I moved to Arnside, Cumbria two years ago, I’ve been helping with the Flora of Cumbria group also.

LM: Will you still be able to fit in your County Recorder’s duties alongside being President?

LF: Hopefully, as I have become addicted to visiting the islands.

LM: And how are you getting on with recording for Atlas 2020 in your vice-county?

Lynne with Ulve and Ro after a successful
 Hebridean recording trip
LF: I think I now have records from every tetrad on the 3 main islands, and have been boating out to some of the smaller ones, which often sit in their own tetrad.

LM: You’ve served BSBI in many capacities over the years – as Hon Field Meetings Secretary, Hon. General Secretary and Council member. You were also Chair of BSBI’s Meetings & Communications Committee and have been involved in organising national events such as the Annual Exhibition Meeting

So presumably spreading the word about BSBI, and getting more people involved in botany, will be a theme of your Presidency?

Lynne, Ro and NTS Ranger Emily Wilkins
on the islet of Soa off the south coast of Iona
LF: Yes. I try to encourage people I meet both inside and outside the BSBI, who might have a little knowledge and some interest of plants. I try to recruit at least three new members each year.

LM: Your diary for next year is probably looking quite busy! Are we likely to see you at many BSBI field meetings or indoor events? 

LF: I’m just trying to organise myself for 2020, and I am hoping to attend some field meetings, and during the next two years get to England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and of course, each of the various committees. 

LM: Thanks for giving us a taste of what we have to look forward to! Can we invite you to come back once you’ve been in post for a while and give us an update? And how can people follow what you are doing during your first few months as President?

Lynne in 2019 visiting  Rydal Hall,
a Thomas Mawson garden in Cumbria
LF: With the help of the BSBI Comms Team, I’m going to have a go at Twitter! I’ll also be writing a regular note for BSBI News, our membership newsletter, and I can be contacted on

LM: One final question – will you be taking part in the New Year Plant Hunt in January?

LF: Yes, I will. I’ve done it for the past five years and have already noticed the difference between inland Cambridgeshire and coastal Cumbria!

LM: Thanks for talking to us Lynne and congratulations on becoming our new President!

1 comment:

  1. Two people who inspired me to botanise, Lynne Farrell and Pete Stroh. I was lucky enough to go out with each of them in a group at Wicken Fen some years ago, both unforgettable experiences, I was relatively new to botany then. Now I am a member of BSBI and always remember the excitement of botany in those early days, thanks to Lynne and Pete.


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