"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

Friday, 12 October 2018

Brandon Marsh NR

It was such a lovely autumnal day on Wednesday that B and I decided to visit Brandon Marsh Nature Reserve. Unfortunately we left later than intended (B made the mistake of ringing an ex-work colleague he hadn't seen for years and was on the phone for 2 hours!) and then, due to roadworks the M6 South was very congested resulting in the journey taking us half an hour longer than usual! So we didn't spend as long on the reserve as planned and it also meant that when we got back from our walk the tearoom was closed so no cake! We did, however, spend a relaxing and peaceful 2 hours wandering round this lovely reserve which is my favourite.

Brandon Marsh is the headquarters of Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and the reserve covers 228 acres with 10 main pools and over 230 bird species seen. The range of habitats includes open water, reedbeds, wetland, grassland and woodland.

Mosaics in the Sensory Garden

We walked onto the reserve through Hope Wood and then took the path by the pump that leads around Grebe Pool


In New Hare Covert we watched a Nuthatch for about 10 minutes - sorry no pictures - it was too fast for me zipping from tree to tree and up and down tree trunks.

My toadstool id skills are woeful although it looks like one of the bracket fungi but really have no idea which one!

By the path that skirts Swallow Pool with a golf course on the other side where we spotted a Small Copper butterfly.

Newlands Reedbed

Swallow Pool with Mute Swans. Whenever I walk past this pool I remember the occasion when I watched a Kingfisher going in and out of its nesting cavity on a sandy bank some years ago.

East Marsh Pool from Wright Hide - into the sun so it was difficult to check bird species

More fungi

We just had time to visit one more hide so took the path

that leads to the Jon Baldwin hide so we could view East Marsh Pool without the sun being in our eyes.

Greater Reedmace

East Marsh pool where we stayed awhile watching Mallard, Grey Heron, Teal, Shoveler, Cormorants, Lapwings and Coots.

Artificial Sand Martin nesting banks

We saw several flowers while walking round - Dandelion, Herb Robert, Ragwort, Yarrow and

White Dead-Nettle

and Red Campion

Bramble flowers and Blackberries (most have now "gone over")

Hips are forming

Goose Pool

This year's Alder cones forming

Finally, back at the Visitor Centre

Pied Wagtail

Although we didn't spend as long there as we had hoped we had a lovely walk and there is always plenty of wildlife to see on the Reserve which is usually surprisingly quiet people-wise :)

All photos taken by me with the Pansonic Lumix FZ330 bridge camera

Friday, 5 October 2018

A Day Out in Herefordshire - Part 2: St Michael's Church, Castle Frome

After visiting the museum, having lunch and a brief look round Bromyard we still had a few hours remaining before we needed to set off home. I was rather keen to have a look at the church of St Michael's at Castle Frome about 6 miles away. The church is listed in "England's 1000 Best Churches" by Simon Jenkins mainly due to the exquisitely carved Norman font and the 17th century Unett tomb. According to Jenkins the carvings of the font are "only equalled by the font at Eardisley church" (which I am yet to visit!) "and the doorway decorations at Kilpeck".

D took some photos from the car as I drove towards the church.


We saw many orchards with ripening fruit.



Views from the car park by the church.

St Michael's, made of local sandstone, dates from around 1125. It was probably founded by the de Lacy family - Norman nobility who owned a great deal of land in Herefordshire.


About 350 yards from the church at the end of a holloway is a motte and bailey castle although only the mound survives today. It may have been Walter de Lacy's keep. I had read on one website that the motte was no longer accessible so D amused himself looking round the churchyard trying to get photos of pheasants while I explored the church with its Norman architecture.

The porch dates back to 1878

A very old sundial is located above the South doorway about 4 metres from the ground and only partially visible. Information at the church suggests it is Anglo-Saxon although other sources say it is Norman. According to the church the probable date of the sundial is 1050 AD although it could date from as late as 1150 AD - this was a period when Norman influence had not fully exerted itself in England. It is one of about 50 Anglo-Saxon sundials in England - most of which are mounted on the south side of churches. This sundial is carved from a single stone and the gnomon would have held a horizonal bronze, iron or wooden stick. It is about 30 centimetres in diameter and divided into six segments - 3 for the morning and 3 for the afternoon.

Norman doorway - the tympanum is plain.

The Norman font carved from one piece of local sandstone around 1170 is just beautiful. The carvings were made by the Herefordshire School of Romanesque Carvers and were inspired by carvers in Italy and Spain and there are also suggestions of influence from the Vikings and Saxons. They show the triumph of baptism over evil. It is amazing to think that the carvings were made using just a hammer and chisel.

The font rests on 3 crouching human figures which could represent sin. Two of the figures are sadly badly damaged.

There are snake-like carvings on the stem of the font and it has a plaited rim.

The four evangelists are carved on the font together with the Baptism of Christ.

Here the winged bull or ox of St Luke.

The winged lion of St Mark by the eagle of St John.

The eagle of St John

A pair of birds (doves?)

St Matthew represented as angel holding a book.

The Baptism of Jesus who is standing in water with ripples in concentric circles and four fish. The Hand of God points to his head and St John the Baptist stands to one side with a Dove representing the Holy Spirit pecking at Jesus's head.

Interior of the church

The panelled nave roof ceiling is 15th century.


The Norman Chancel Arch with

a tiny carving of a human head.

Fragments of 15th century stained glass in the South window of the nave.


17th century pulpit

Memorial Tablet to the Unett family

Alabaster tomb of the Unett family 1630.

The effigies are of William and his wife Margery who died early in the 17th century and show much detail of clothes worn at that time. William is wearing a cavalier style uniform. The effigies were once painted and traces remain.


14th century East window.

One last view of the stunning font.

Norman door again with a plain tympanum

Views from the churchyard

The church really is well worth a visit if you are ever in the area.

On the way back to Bromyard we stopped off briefly at the Hop Pocket Shopping village which contains a plant nursery and several independent shops. I did treat myself to a dried hop garland which was much longer than I expected and I am still trying to decide where on earth at home to put it!


D amused himself taking photos of the lovely Herefordshire countryside as we drove along.



Oast House or Hop Kiln








View towards the Malverns


Finally back on the M5 and on the way home.


*D Photos taken by D with the Canon SX50HS bridge camera

Rest of photos taken by me with the Panasonic Lumix FZ330

Sadly, the church seemed to have sold out of church guides so I relied on information from the internet to find out about the church - although information on the sundial is mainly from the information sheet in the church porch

Great English Churches
Britain Express

"England's 1000 Best Churches" by Simon Jenkins.

I do hope we can return to the area as there is so much more to see. Ledbury is on the list of places to visit and I would also like to go to NT Brockhampton and the Ralph Court Gardens and, of course, there is Elgar's cottage nearer Worcester. Not to mention the churches at Much Marcle and Kempley - the latter has some of the best preserved medieval wall paintings in England.