Botany Class of 1960, 50th anniversary reunion

Botany soon gave way to socialising and reminiscing when the King's College Botany Class of 1960 celebrated its 50th anniversary reunion in September with a three-day visit to old haunts. Recalling field studies they had completed as part of their course, they re-visited Flatford Mill and Wrabness salt marsh in Essex, and Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire.

In the early 1960s the King's Botany Department was housed in two large Victorian villas in Half Moon Lane, Herne Hill – far away from the College campus in the Strand. It meant 'student life' rather passed them by, but it also meant they formed perhaps a closer bond than they might otherwise have done. Of the nine original group members, seven converged on an Essex hotel, with assorted wives and husbands, for a trip down memory lane. One, Gina Wicks (née King), came with her husband from Australia, while another, Kate Rayner, came from Spain. The others included Joan Campbell (née Shakeshaft), Beth Phillip (née Davies), Adrian Twiner, Paul Lampitt, James Wilkinson and Stephen Whittle, who organised the reunion. Sadly Ashley Skinner had succumbed to leukaemia but his widow, Veronica, also ex-King's, came. The ninth member of the group, Christine Walker could not be traced.

Said one, 'It was as if the intervening years had never happened. It seemed no-one had changed.' The majority had become teachers and lecturers but research, business and journalism were also represented. At both Flatford Mill and Wicken Fen they were given conducted tours. While the places themselves have a timeless quality, nomenclature certainly had changed. Flatford no longer has 'laboratories' but 'activity rooms'. There is no longer a 'Warden' but a 'Head of Centre'. And Willy Lott's Cottage, as painted by John Constable, is now known as Willy Lott's House. At the National Trust-owned Wicken Fen, the falling water table has meant they have had to install a deep membrane through the peat along one side of the 600 acre site to keep the water in. Some in the group recalled Latin names they were once familiar with. Most, though remembering how important it all was at the time, were content to just enjoy the company and the freedom which has come with retirement.

Botany Class of 1966 (from left to right): Kate Rayner, Beth Phillip, James Wilkinson, Christine Walker, Ashley Skinner, Gina Wicks, Stephen Whittle, Joan Campbell and Paul Lampit
As they are now

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