"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Shadowbrook Meadows NR

D is on holiday this week and we paid a visit today to the quiet local Warwickshire Wildlife Trust reserve of Shadowbrook Meadows. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), covering 4.4 hectares, and falls within the larger site of Bickenhill Meadows.

The reserve consists of old meadow pastures (2 dry and 2 wet fields), a stream, wet woodland and 600 year old hedgerows. The unimproved, unfertilised, unsprayed, unploughed and species-rich grassland has been maintained over centuries by cutting hay and grazing regimes. It is a good example of how the countryside would have looked before the agricultural intensification in the twentieth century.

This scarecrow peering over the hedge really made me jump when I spotted it as I was about to climb over a stile.

Thankfully the grazing regime seems to have finished unless the cattle were out of sight in one of the wet meadows. In the past I've never bothered about the presence of cows and just tended to march across fields ignoring them but these days there seems to be a glut of stories in the media about people being attacked and chased by cattle so these days I am a trifle more wary especially as I can't run anywhere near as fast as I used to!

Lots of Dandelions, Red Campion and Garlic Mustard flowering along the path.

The first of the "dry" meadows.

Lots of wild flowers in the pastures - Cowslips and Bluebells galore, Lesser Celandine, Buttercup, Speedwell and Violet species plus a few Lady's Smock or Cuckoo flowers

I spotted my first Orange Tip of the year in the garden before we left home but at the Reserve I counted up to a dozen (admittedly some may have been the same individual) and interestingly they were all males.




Cowslips are one of my favourite Spring flowers. Alternative names include "key flower", "herb Peter", St Peter's keys" "Our Lady's bunch of keys", "Our Lady's cushion", "galligaskins", "jackanapes on horses"and "hose in hose". The names linked to keys refer to the shape of the flowers which were supposed to resemble keys. Apparently cowslips were once thought to have the power to split rocks that contained treasure!

There are a lovely few lines from a fairy song in Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream".

"The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
In their gold coats spots you see,
These be rubies, fairy flavours,
In those freckles live their savours...
I must go seek some dew-drops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear."

We saw several damselflies in one of the wetter parts of the field - all the same species and D managed to get one record shot. I am not very good at damsel/dragonfly id but checking when we returned home I think it is probably a Large Red Damselfly (please correct me if I am wrong).


I really ought to visit this reserve more often as it is only 20 minutes from home. D and I first went a few years ago in June. The post can be seen here . Just hoping the link works!! I will try and go again this summer and an autumn visit would definitely be worthwhile as waxcaps occur. EDIT - the link sort of works but for some reason if you follow it it shows the latest post i.e. this one first and you have to scroll down to the original post which appears below. Have tried to change it without success :(

We ended up having a pub lunch at The Bear Berkswell and a stop at the farm shop Meriden and then home.

*D - photos taken by D with the Canon Bridge SX50.

Reference: "Discovering the Folklore of Plants" by Margaret Baker

Friday, 29 April 2016

Return to Temple Balsall

I gave E a lift into Solihull yesterday where she was meeting a friend for lunch which gave me a couple of hours to myself before I had to pick her up. My initial plan was to go and visit a church at Rowington and also check out a lane near there which has a wonderful display of Wild Garlic. Sadly, I discovered the church is locked. Second idea was to revisit St Alpheges and check out a rather gorgeous (and I suspect expensive!) teddy bear called Mr. Bumble in the Handmade Boutique. I decided that Mr Bumble might prove irresistible and not good for the bank balance so I eventually decided to return to Temple Balsall in the hope of seeing some butterflies.

It was lovely and sunny, if rather cold, when we left home but by the time I reached the car park at Temple Balsall it was starting to rain. Definitely not butterfly weather :(

The Old Hall of the Templars

The cottage garden of the Old Hall is full of a mixture of wild and cultivated flowers.

There were more wild flowers appearing in the churchyard compared to our visit earlier this month - Primroses and Lesser Celandine (still abundant), Bluebells, Snakeshead Fritillary, Cowslips, Oxlips and Dandelions. This churchyard is a superb example of how beautiful God's Acre can look if wildlife is allowed to flourish.

St Mary the Virgin

(If you read the post a few weeks back you might want to skip the next few sentences as it might be a trifle repetitive).

The church was built in the first 30 years of the 14th century as the Chapel for the Knight's Hospitallers who had taken over the estate a few years before following the Dissolution of the Knights Templar. The latter had worshipped in a chapel attached to the Old Hall.

Following Henry VIII's Dissolution of the monasteries and religious communities, the Church was neglected for many years.

It was restored in the second half of the 17th century by Lady Anne Holbourne. A full restoration by Sir George Gilbert Scott, who was renowned for restoring medieval churches, took place in the mid 19th century. In the 1860's St Mary's became a parish church.

During the Gilbert Scott restoration the Lady Anne Holbourne Font (pictured below) was replaced by Scott's choice and the older font was removed to the garden of Temple House where it remained until 1920 when it was moved again to a local farm. The font was eventually returned to St Mary's in 1984.

The pulpit dates from the GS restoration and panels depict Christ surrounded by the 4 Gospel Writers

I understand the floor also dates from the GS restoration

The East window dates back to 1907 whereas the

West Window is slightly older.

The next few photos were taken with the Canon Bridge SX50 - (yes, I took 2 cameras with me!). I think the Canon takes better photos of the stained glass partly because you can zoom in more but also because I like the brighter colours.

There are many stone carved heads just below the roof and many are of Knights ready to serve as Soldiers of Christ. Most date back to the mid 19th century Restoration.

The Organ was bought during the 1840's restoration when the Foundation of Lady Katherine Leveson spent large amounts of money on the church.

Piscina and Sedilia

Carvings of wood - very lovely I thought

I don't remember seeing this memorial before.

I was hoping to look for more gravestones with the name Truelove both in this churchyard and the cemetery but due to the rain I didn't really get chance and it was time to return to Solihull.

Walking back along the Bread Walk

No flowers yet on the Lords and Ladies

You can see the trails of the Holly Leaf Miner on these Holly leaves.

Violets and Green Alkanet are now flowering.

Reference:The Church of St Mary the Virgin Temple Balsall, A Visitor Guide