Until the turn of the last century Mitcham, where I grew up, was a village near London surrounded by fields of lavender, plus chamomile and peppermint. In large part this was due to two local physic gardeners, Ephraim Potter and William Moore, who in 1749 set up a distillery there and founded a company to make and market toiletries made from locally-grown herbs and flowers. Yes, Potter and Moore soaps began just a short walk away from my home, but by my time Mitcham lavender only existed in people's gardens and the names of a few roads and an electoral ward.
(Happily, recent years have seen a thriving organic lavender farm in nearby Banstead, and a resurgence in the cultivation and use of Black Mitcham Peppermint)
So I especially enjoy visiting lavender farms! Those purple-blue rows disappearing into the distance, vibrant against any background... the air sharply yet soothingly fragrant and filled with the contented buzz of bees... this is how Mitcham must once have been, before the railway and large-scale house building filled the air with other sights, sounds and smells. That's certainly how I felt today, visiting Cotswold Lavender Farm, where thanks to the recent sunny weather bright, blooming rows interspersed with wildflowers stretched as far as the horizon, butterflies and bees flitted and flirted with the flowers and a refreshing breeze was lightly aromatic (but teased most of my attempts at taking close-up photos of flowers!)
We call lavender a shade, but in reality it's a spectrum. At the entrance to the farm all the varieties grown there - a dozen or so - are planted side by side, in undulating waves of purples, blues, lavenders and mauves, intermingled with some white and different shades of green. Just as humans come in so many different sizes, shapes and hues, so does lavender; but all able to bloom and thrive companionably in the same soil.
Would that humans could do so equally comfortably...