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Childhood friends aim to put the wild things back in our hearts

Game Changers: Hannah Gallagher and Laura Buchanan’s new book Wild Things draws on the importance of connecting with nature

Hannah Gallagher and Laura Buchanan have been friends since they were “little wild things ourselves”, Hannah writes in her introduction to Wild Things, their beautiful new book. Laura grew up in the Donegal town of Ramelton and Hannah lived about 2km outside in a small farming community. As children they would each set off walking from home and meet halfway “in the woods by the waterfall”.

The restrictions of the pandemic brought them back to that outdoors world. Hannah, a pianist and music educator, and Laura, an illustrator who loves nostalgia as a theme for her work, found themselves rediscovering childhood haunts. The 1990s was a “much more care-free time” to be a child, Hannah says. The roads were safer for walking and it was the “last little window of time before screens took over”. Having nature on their doorstep felt like a balm during Covid and the idea for the book was born.

“We wanted something simple that could also create a personal connection and not let the conversation be too heavy,” she says. Partly it was realising “there’s always community around you”. Extending “friendship” to the wild things in a lawn during the summer months can lead to conversations over a cup of tea with family and friends and the idea spreads.

They chose 12 wild plants, “we wanted them to be familiar, easy to spot, easy to be a part of your day”, Hannah says. The list includes some of the humblest of plants such as Ribwort Plantain and nettle. Illustrator Laura created a “playful” illustration of the plant rather than a botanically-accurate sketch and Hannah wrote some of its story, tips on how to identify each plant safely, how to responsibly forage it and the plant’s connections to other wildlife, as well as stories and culture threaded through them, finishing with a simple recipe for food, drink, balm or dye. Nature expert Aengus Kennedy wrote the forward.


They launched the book in the Glebe Gallery’s outdoor education space among the trees last month and much of the talk was about connecting to nature.

The book is the perfect companion to a parent who wants to explore a hedgerow with a small child. And this time of the year is when most of the plants that are celebrated can still be seen and discovered. Play is a big part of the idea. “It’s like a new muscle. We’re always reminding ourselves to spend time in nature. It’s where we find calmness and stillness and peace.”

As we finish up talking, Hannah quietly says something I find very moving: “It is for them more than anyone.” The “them” she’s talking about are the “wild things” that we have pushed to the edges of our existence. This book puts them back in our hearts.

Wild Things, €20 plus postage. Available from

Catherine Cleary

Catherine Cleary

Catherine Cleary, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a founder of Pocket Forests