The Lake District and its surrounding countryside was a significant centre of botanical research in the nineteenth century. It is striking that the main explorers were not prominent academics but ordinary individuals with inquiring minds, men who saw opportunities to make significant contributions to botanical knowledge and who were prepared to commit themselves to years of painstaking labour in the cause of science, with little prospect of widespread recognition for their achievements.
Amongst the most notable of these foot-soldiers of science were the three friends George Stabler, James Martindale Barnes and Joseph Anthony Martindale, local botanists whose enthusiasm ranged across the Lake District in all seasons and in all weathers. Although prominent in their day they have been overlooked since – The Three-Legged Society tells their remarkable stories and highlights their significance in the history of botany.
Ian D. Hodkinson is a retired Professor of Ecology and Entomology at Liverpool John Moores University. Allan Steward is a founding member of Levens Local History Group.