Jane Wilson follows the scent
Dab it behind your ears and on the inside of your wrist. Advice whispered secretively to me by my treasured grandmother as she moulded and guided me into a young lady. A bottle of Yardley’s English Lavender Eau De Toilette and its permeating fragrance spills heavenly eye-dewy visions of the past and thoughts that meander around its floral aromas.
A hint, a whiff or a spray of lavender can conjure up visions of that old-fashioned dressing table with curly legs cradling a glass top, sandwiching a crochet mat and displaying the dainty, embroidered threesome set: the hand mirror, comb and brush, ornamentally placed on a matching tray, all reflected in the triple linked mirror. To the right a display of lotions and potions but the limelight shone to the left where the English Lavender fragrance and talcum powder were forever positioned, never to be changed. The Eau de Toilette was distinguished by its unique shape, while the buxom talcum powder sat in its own sprinkled dust, spilling over to the floral carpet beneath.
The ancient cultures of the Greeks and Romans used it to perfume their baths, Egyptians in rituals honouring the dead. During Medieval times it was strewn on the floors of churches and homes, then in Tudor times it was stuffed into quilted jackets and caps. Lavender is thought to have originated in the highlands of India, but today it grows in many sunny, well-drained spots around the world with France being the epicentre.
Lavender farms and fields
Capturing the essence of sunny days, lavender farms and fields have matured into tourist attractions drawing lovers of purple carpets to Norfolk, Somerset, Kent and the Cotswold Hills displaying different hues, breeds and varieties. In Surrey, the Mayfield Lavender Farm has charmed Chinese visitors eager to Instagram the traditional red telephone box amidst its rows. Here lavender is grown and nurtured in the same fields as centuries ago. Banstead and the surrounding areas were once home to a thriving industry which supplied companies known across the globe such as Yardley and Potter & Moore. Enveloped by the blue landscape, the butterflies provide theatre weaving between the mosaic of shades, fluttering by as they kiss the petals laid atop neat rows, skipping over well-trodden pathways, devoid of weeds thanks to volunteers and paid custodians of the fields. A landscape of complete stillness, peace and aromas that carry you back in time. And there is afternoon tea with lavender as the main ingredient in scones, iced cakes, tea, biscuits and even ice cream.
Dusky purple shades and delicate fragrances are also emblematic of regions in Provence where lavender is known as blue gold and where mini festivals and farmers markets celebrate in its honour. A Museum of Lavender in the dry-stone village of Cabrieres d’Avignon offers interesting details of planting, harvesting and distillation. The best time to visit any of these decorated fields is between June and August but check the purple progress beforehand.
More than a pretty scent, lavender has long been renowned for its soothing and stress-relieving aromatherapy properties. It is an essential oil believed to have antibacterial and antifungal properties which can aid problems caused by natural imbalances in the skin. It also has anti-inflammatory properties which can help soothe mild skin irritation and redness. And, of course, it is widely known to help in relaxation and encouraging peaceful sleep.
Famous as a purveyor of luxury fragrances and soaps and once holder of a Royal Warrant, the House of Yardley was established in 1770 and lavender has remained at the core of the brand. Its clean, fresh note is added to many unisex scents as well as floral perfumes, chosen by the top names from Chanel, Tom Ford, Acqua di Parma and Jo Malone.
And whether in the form of salts or soaps, encased in ragdolls, adorned as cards, stuffed in pillows, added to liquors, dried into teas, sprayed as a pillow mist, enjoyed as flavoured chocolate, or as an essential oil for aromatherapy, lavender is certainly therapy through the ages and carries the essence of my grandmother’s love of English Lavender Eau de Toilette.
Lavender for wellbeing
To access lavender’s calming effects, the essential oil can be used to make a pillow spray by mixing equal parts of distilled water and witch hazel and then adding several drops of lavender; this mixture can be kept in a spray bottle and applied to a pillow at night.
Add 5-10 drops into your warm bath to relax and rebalance your mind, body and soul.
Add 2-3 drops to freshen washing.
Say goodbye to moths by hanging lavender bags in wardrobes.
Freshen clothes by placing a lavender bag into drawers. Remember to squeeze gently regularly to reactivate the fragrance.
And finally, plant lavender on either side of your garden pathways, so any movement will release the fragrance.
Please note, users should check for any allergic reaction by patch testing new products before use.
For tours by bike in Provence, Silver Travel Advisor recommends Cycling for Softies.
For river cruises in this region, go to Emerald Cruises.