"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, 11 March 2016

Spring Flowers in a Country Churchyard

I met E for lunch in Solihull yesterday and decided to visit St Giles churchyard, Packwood on the way home.

St Giles church dates back over 800 years and is dedicated to St Giles, the patron saint for beggars and the lame.

Snowdrops are a little past their best and Primroses are just coming into flower - the churchyard will be covered in the latter just in time for Easter.

Dog's Mercury


I only found a few flowers of Lesser Celandine (have they already finished flowering or are they just starting?). In the Language of Flowers Lesser Celandine symbolises "joys to come".

I found very few violet flowers perhaps I was too early but there were plenty of daffodils.

I've visited quite a few local churchyards over the years where wild flowers and wildlife are allowed to flourish but St Giles is probably my favourite. Over 100 wild flower species have been recorded. In the areas of the churchyard where the older graves are located nature is left to its own devices with ferns, brambles and ivy scrambling over ancient tombs, gravestones and crosses.

The grass is kept shorter and tidier in the area with newer graves which seems a good compromise.

A strange inscription on a gravestone left me wondering if you pushed on it would a gaping hole and stairs appear leading down to a vault?!

There are several mass/scratch dials on the walls of the church. Centuries ago a stick would be inserted in the circular depression to act as a kind of sundial so that the times of masses could be calculated.

These depressions show where arrows were sharpened in the days when archery was regularly practised in churchyards.

Lichens on a fence and church walls

Memorial to Graham Baron Ash and his parents, owners of nearby Packwood House, who gave the house to the National Trust.

The Tower of Atonement

Some of you may remember me mentioning Nicholas Brome from nearby Baddesley Clinton who not only murdered his father's killer in 1471 but then killed the minister of Baddesley church in 1483 when he discovered him in his parlour "chockings his wife under ye chinne". His atonements for these deeds included the construction of a tower at Baddesley Clinton church where he was buried standing upright at the church entrance so all who entered would walk over him and he was also responsible for arranging the constuction of the tower at St Giles - still called The Tower of Atonement.

Next to the church is Packwood Hall which dates back to the 17th century and has a moat. Fans of the "Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady" by Edith Holden may remember her visiting the Hall on 24th February 1906 and seeing and picking a bunch of snowdrops from the grounds of the hall and being shown a lamb by the farmer who lived there. No sign of any lambs today but it was good to see that the snowdrops are still flowering in profusion!

Edith lived in nearby Darley Green between 1880 and 1890 with her parents and siblings. I've managed to discover in the past the houses where she lived in Dorridge and Olton but never been 100% sure of the house in Darley Green although I suspect it may have been one of the those in the photo below.

I drove past Packwood House on the way home to check on the daffodils that line the road.

There are still many buds so I think they will be looking at their best in about a week.

Apologies to those of you who have been visiting my blog for some time because I tend to return to St Giles in early Spring each year and have already done a series of posts on Edith Holden and the locations she mentions in her Nature Notes so I hope the post isn't too repetitive!


Wendy said...

I would keep revisiting such interesting places, too. I love the history of St Giles and the marks on the wall from another age. Churchyards are real gems for finding early spring flowers - the wilder the churchyard the better for this. I'm intrigued by the mysterious gravestone and entrance to the vault as well!

Bovey Belle said...

Could you find Edith's address on the census, or had she moved elsewhere by then? I still have that beautiful book and a biography about her. Such talent.

The history involved with this area is fascinating. Nicholas Brome certainly had a quick temper! He deserved his fate . . .

I LOVED the photo of where they used to sharpen their arrows - that's REAL history!

Ragged Robin said...

Wendy - Thanks so much - there is so much history to be found in many of these old country churches and churchyards even if the church is locked you can still find so much of interest outside. I will try and visit again perhaps May time to see what other flowers I can find. On my first visit I did bump into a lady (churchwarden?) who told me a lot about the church and its history. If I ever see her again I will ask about the gravestone and vault!

Bovey Belle - Thanks very much. That is a very good idea re: the census - I will look into that. She and her family did move quite a bit round the Solihull, Packwood, Dorridge area but I may be able to find something out. Have you got her second diary called The Nature of an Edwardian Lady which covers 1905? Not quite as good as the Country Diary but still charming. The biography is very good. They are all books I dip into all the time.

Its a particularly lovely area of Warwickshire and the church and churchyard has a real sense of history. I did once get some photos inside the church but its very dark inside and photography not easy. So glad you liked the arrow photo so much :)

amanda peters said...

What a lovely walk round , a interesting read. I like the marks on the wall ,easily missed if you were not aware.
Few more warm days and the flowers will get moving.
Glad you managed a day out..
Amanda xx

Ragged Robin said...

Amanda Peters - Thanks Amanda. It took me ages to find the marks even though I already knew they were there from past visits :) Its nice to get out on my own sometimes :)

Lovely day here today - really felt like Spring - frogs and newts moving round in the pond :)

Countryside Tales said...

Fascinating about the arrows. I will look for similar marks here. I've not seen violets here yet but could have sworn I heard a chiff chaff this morning. Lovely and interesting post- not remotely repetitive x

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales - Thanks CT :) I've seen the arrow sharpening marks on quite a few old churches so you should spot some.

Not seen or heard any summer bird visitors yet here but they must start arriving soon.

Deb said...

What a lovely post! So interesting about the marks on the wall and Nicholas Brome. I'd be so tempted to give that gravestone a gentle push to see if there is a gap. ;-)

Ragged Robin said...

Deb - Thanks so much Deb - Nicholas Brome seems to have been quite a character!!!

May well try that with the gravestone :) Reminded me of something out of a Famous Five book (many decades ago!!) :)

Toffeeapple said...

I have finally placed an order for the book, I can't recall how long I have known abut it!

Lovely to see all the Snowdrops and Daffodils, it is all looking more like Spring now.

Ragged Robin said...

Toffeeapple - Thanks so much.

So pleased you have ordered the book - I do hope you enjoy it as much as I do. I am feeling rather envious that you will have the delight and joy of reading it for the very first time :) Please let me know what you think when you have finished it.

Much more like Spring over the last couple of days :)

Caroline Gill said...

Thank you for this informative post, RR. I, for one, was intrigued by the Holden family/St Giles story. As for celandines, our parish churchyard was awash with them yesterday, with a few violets as well. Here in Suffolk I would say that the snowdrops are passed their peak but that the celandines are in full bloom. Primroses are still a bit patchy - but coming. The newborn lambs are a joy!

Ragged Robin said...

Caroline Gill - Thanks very much Caroline. I think the wild flowers can vary even within a County - I went a walk round local lanes on Sunday and there were celandines absolutely everywhere. Similar here with snowdrops and primroses - one past the best and one will be fully out soon. Haven't seen any newborn lambs yet - must get out more!! :)

Rosie said...

What a beautiful church and churchyard, just the kind I like to see where nature is allowed to take over in some areas. I've visited both Packwood and Baddesley Clinton but never the church. I've really enjoyed your post about its history:)

Ragged Robin said...

Rosie - Thanks so much for leaving such a lovely comment. I am so pleased you enjoyed reading about the church. If you ever visit Packwood House again, St Giles is about a mile away (just off Glasshouse Lane). You can see it on Google Maps. The churchyard at Baddesley Clinton if you haven't been is lovely for wildflowers too at bluebell time.

Thanks again.

David said...

I do love to see Primroses, they really are the quintessential spring flower, whilst daffodils are also a cheering sight after the dark days of winter. Celandines are still going strong up here, though I have also failed to find any flowering Violets yet, though it is still a bit early I suppose.

Enjoyed reading about the local connections with Edith Holden as well.

Hope you are well and my kindest regards :-)

Ragged Robin said...

David - Thanks very much David. I think primroses are my favourite Spring flower - sadly there don't seem to be so many around the lanes as when I was a child but finding them at St Giles was a revelation. When in full bloom the churchyard is carpeted in them :) Saw lots of celandines at the weekend. There are no violets yet in our garden so I believe you are right in that its too early.

Pleased you enjoyed the Edith Holden connection :)

Best wishes to you and hope you are well too :)

Chris Rohrer said...

The Tower Of Atonement!!!! Sounds like a great title for a movie:) Who shoots arrows at tombstones?!!:) That crazy! I love visiting cemeteries. Something mysterious about them. And sometimes there are good birds hiding there with all the old vegetation.

Ragged Robin said...

Chris Rohrer - Thanks Chris. Yes, it would make a great title for a movie - in fact, his life would probably make good subject matter!

The archery was centuries ago when they used to use bows and arrows to fight in wars!

Churchyards, as long as they are not tidy and manicured, can be wonderful places for wild flowers, birds and insects :)