Elsa Pooley and Gillian Condy are a formidable and exceptionally talented team.
Elsa Pooley, author of best-selling field guides to trees and wild flowers, is a self-taught botanical artist and amateur botanist. She pursued her passion for indigenous plants through collecting herbarium specimens, researching, writing, growing and painting plants. She currently divides her time between indigenous landscaping, vegetation rehabilitation, writing, and conducting wild flower tours of the region.
Gillian Condy was born in Kenya. She trained as a scientific illustrator in London, followed by a Master’s from the Royal College of Art. She worked in Botswana from 1978-1982 before taking up the position of resident botanical artist at the South African National Botanical Institute (SANBI) in Pretoria in 1983, until her retirement in December 2017. She is an active freelance artist, having participated in over 200 group exhibitions worldwide including those of Royal Horticultural Society in London, Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation in Pittsburgh, USA, the Shirley Sherwood Gallery, London (2018), Kirstenbosch Exhibition of Botanical Art (2000 – 2010).
At The Cavern, we often refer to Elsa & Gill as part of the furniture. They have been coming to The Cavern for well over 15 years and have hosted countless Botanical Art Courses and Nature Journaling Workshops in this rugged valley. Journaling 2020 happened at the beginning of February and although our numbers were down it was a memorable week.
During the hot summer months the alpine flowers above the Sentinel Car Park are at their best. As we shared;
“This course is being held early this year and we plan to take advantage of this and include a day trip to the Sentinel car park which is at about 2600m. February is the height of the summer flowering season for Drakensberg and Lesotho alpine flowers. The easy walk from the Sentinel car park towards a view point below the Sentinel Peak gives one an outstanding opportunity to enjoy the incredible scenery and flowers. Elsa will bring along her book on Mountain Flowers, a field guide to the flora of the Drakensberg & Lesotho and guide you on this walk.
The Cavern will provide picnic breakfast and lunch – we will need to leave at 6am for the 2 hour drive via Oliviershoek Pass and Phutathijaba to the Sentinel.
The Sentinel, Sani Pass and Naudesnek Pass are three of the top spots in the Drakensberg to see alpine flowers, and January/February are the best times. So we will include this day as part of our Nature Journaling experience. The scenery is spectacular and the flowers outstanding.”
And an outstanding day they had. A full February day exploring the Drakensberg plants and enjoying the magnificent scenery. Our two overseas travelling ladies, Monique and Chantal, from Reunion were taken with the immense beauty and grandness of the escarpment. They produced beautiful journals which will keep as special mementos from their Drakensberg stay.
The group also enjoyed a Boma breakfast in the mountains and several walks in and around the resort. Plant walking is a bit more like ambling, 3 steps forward and one to the side followed by quite a lengthy discussion while said plant is ID-ed!
It is always special hosting these courses. They are an extension of what the Cavern offers and they hone into the incredible flora and fauna that surrounds us. What makes the days all the more exceptional are the two ladies who run these workshops. They are determined, fiercely hard-working but have a gentleness which makes their teaching extraordinary. Their energies bounce off one another, they delight their students and their dinner table is always engulfed with laughter and good cheer.
If you are looking for something quite special, a course with Elsa & Gill would be a fabulous choice!