Jan Greenland

I write with great sorrow about the death of Jan Greenland, who passed unexpectedly on Wednesday 28 November. Jan had struggled for years with health problems, which restricted her activities, but she was always positive and happy, and most people were unaware of her problems. A few years ago at Tatton Flower Show she had such a bad attack of asthma that she was lapsing in and out of consciousness, was taken by ambulance to hospital, and very nearly died. More recently her health had been steady, so her death was a shock and a surprise to everyone. 

She leaves behind her husband of 59 years, Colin, her son Jonathan, and her two grandchildren, Oliver and Imogen.   
Jan was already on the Council of the Herb Society when I joined and remained on it all the time I was there, and only retired comparatively recently.  Jan and Colin became great friends of mine, and I stayed with them many times in their beautiful Victorian home in Leek.   
In her younger days, Jan lived in the countryside of Somerset, Herefordshire and Shropshire, and worked for two years on dairy and mixed farms, a pre-requisite of specialist training in Rural Home Economics at Usk and Worcester.  She majored in any training she undertook, and spent a lot of her career teaching adults cookery, from Cordon Bleu to Vegetarian.  She was invited to speak four times at the Oxford Symposium of Food and Drink, and gave talks and demonstrations around the world on a wide range of garden and food-related topics, from ancient breads to Georgian feasts. 
In the 1990s, she became interested in herbs and rented a 0.45 hectare walled garden which enabled her to indulge this passion in a practical way.  She restored this from nothing and formed a collection of 350 rare and unusual plants and herbs, enhanced by knowledge gained through membership of The Cottage Garden Society, The Hardy Plant Society, the NCCPG, the Countryside Restoration Trust, and the Herb Society.
A committed environmentalist (a member of Friends of the Earth and the Soil Association) she was also a ‘Friend of the Slug’, which she viewed as a poor persecuted creature whose main function is to eat up dead and decaying matter.  She never used slug pellets or killed them, and in a properly balanced garden found they did little damage.
She continually gave and attended classes and courses, and researched primary source material in archives.  She was a first class schmoozer, and introduced the Society to many well-known people.  Jan was an enthusiastic member of the Council, never failing to surprise with her varied and innovative ideas.
She once told me an amusing little story which I will pass on, as I like to remember Jan with a laugh.  A few years ago she and Colin took the Eurostar down to the south coast of France.  Coming back to London they couldn’t find their return train tickets to Stoke, and after much searching through their bags, were forced to buy another two tickets.  As they were approaching Stoke station, Colin suggested to Jan that he go forward to the luggage rack and bring the suitcases out, and she exit from the door nearest to her.  When the train pulled in, the doors were open for such a short space of time that Jan was unable to get out before they closed again, and the train pulled away, leaving Jan stuck on board.  She had the money, house key and mobiles with her, and didn’t know what Colin would do marooned on Stoke platform with no means of getting home, and no way of contacting her.  When the next station arrived (Macclesfield), she ensured she was at the ready, and got off as quickly as she could.  When all the dust had cleared and the train had pulled away, Jan looked up and down the platform wondering how to get back to Stoke, and her eye fell upon a gentleman standing on the platform with two suitcases.  Colin!  They had never been so glad to see each other! 
You may have guessed that Colin was also unable to get off at Stoke due to the short time the train was at the platform.  Oh, and when they finally got home and Jan unpacked her suitcase, there were their return train tickets in the bottom of it ….
A Celebration of Life will be held for Jan at a future date, which Colin thinks will probably be mid March. 
I will miss my dear, humorous, enthusiastic friend.

Nicky Westwood

2 thoughts on “Jan Greenland

  1. Hi Nicky

    That’s a lovely appreciation of Jan. My first recollection of her was at a garden-related talk in London. She was sitting behind me and gathered that I was a member of the Herb Society – earwigging?! As a result in the lengthy loo queue a hand appeared over my shoulder brandishing a leaflet for one of her WEA courses which Sylvie Brasier and I signed up for. It was life-enhancing, at turns hilarious and informative. Shortly afterwards she put me forward as a potential trustee, a post I enjoyed for many years.

    Hope all well with you. My foot operation went well and I’m three weeks into the recovery process – pretty tedious!

    Gwenneth x


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