"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

Monday, 4 April 2016

Temple Balsall - Spring Flowers in an Area Steeped in History

D and I went a walk round the beautiful Temple Balsall yesterday. It's one of those places you occasionally come across that has a very special atmosphere and sense of place. The history of the location is palpable as you wander along the paths.

We heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming as we left the car park but, despite intensive searching, we couldn't see the bird anywhere.

Temple House (the Bailiff's House built in 1740)

We walked along the "Breadwalk" to the almshouses. In 1674 Lady Katherine Leveson set up a foundation with the aim of teaching children and caring for the elderly within a Christian community. Three hundred years later the community still thrives.

The Old Hall of the Templars

Old Hall was the Preceptory (or Headquarters) for the Knights Templars in Warwickshire from the 12th century. Temple Balsall was given to the Knights by Roger de Mowbray possibly as early as 1146. Parts of the original Hall are contained within the building you see today. The headquarters oversaw farming activities in the area and it was also a place where new members of the Order were received by The Master of the Temple who would make the journey from London.

The Church of St Mary the Virgin was built around 1320-50. Initially, it was built as the Chapel of the Knights Hospitallers (a religious community)who had taken over the property following the dissolution of the Knights Templars. It didn't become a Parish Church until the 1860's following a restoration by Sir George Gilbert Scott.

The Hospitallers had left by the 1470's and the church slowly became a ruin. Henry VIII gave the Manor of Temple Balsall to his wife Queen Catherine Parr and eventually it came into the hands of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. His grand-daughters Lady Anne Holborne and Lady Katherine Leveson restored the church.

A Green Man!

The churchyard is "managed" for wildlife with a Wildlife Conservation Area. Around 130 species of wild flower have been recorded and Yellow Rattle has been planted to try and curb the growth of coarser glasses and allow wild flowers to flourish. 17 species of butterfly were recorded in 2012 and various nest boxes, including one for owls, have been erected. I was hoping to see my first Brimstone of the year especially as Alder Buckthorn has been planted to provide food plants for the larvae of this butterfly. Sadly, no Brimstones yesterday but I did see a Small Tortoiseshell.

The churchyard was full of Primroses with Lesser Celandines still in flower plus a few Snowdrops and violets are also now starting to flower.

After exploring the churchyard and the pretty cottage garden of Old Hall we continued along the Breadwalk passing over a stream

and then continued along the Solihull Green Man Trail through woodland.

Robins, Jackdaws, Dunnocks, Mallard, Blue and Great Tits were seen and

Lesser Celandine was flowering everywhere - it seems to have been a good year for this species as the hedgerows we drove past on the way were still full of the flowers.

We didn't have time to continue on to the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve which is close by so I missed out on the Butterbur.

We walked back through the Cemetery.

This gravestone for Thomas Truelove was seen in the St Mary's Churchyard (the date of his death has been weathered away) and it was interesting to see a

gravestone to other Truelove's in the Cemetery. We did wander if they were related. You could do a lot of research into family history from the information in graveyards.

Edit Thanks so much to John Scurr from the Stray Rambler Blog who has done some research and found out the following information (see John's comment below). The 1871 Census for Balsall shows Thomas Truelove aged 65 a farmer of 223 acres employing 7 men and 3 boys at Lodge Farm. He would therefore have been born 1805/06. He is still there in 1881 but replaced in 1891 by Thomas Hood Truelove (a 42 year old farmer and coal man) who was not his son but possibly a nephew. If correct Thomas Truelove died in 1884.

We retraced our steps along the Breadwalk.

Wild Arum (or Cuckoo Pint/Lords and Ladies) leaves at the side of the path. (Note for David and Amanda - interesting to find plain green leaves after my comments that I've only seen the spotted ones in Warwickshire!!).

Tea and Cakes is now being served on Sunday afternoons for most of the Summer - we will return!

Several Buff-tailed Bumble Bees were seen on the walk - no chance of a photo as they were whizzing around looking for nest sites but we did spot two Red-tailed Bumble Bees (first of the year) seeking nectar.

For fans of "The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady" by Edith Holden, Temple Balsall was another area she mentioned visiting in her Nature Notes.

I'll finish off with a few photos D took with the Canon Bridge Camera - we were especially pleased with the Dunnock photo and D is having far more success than me with this camera with flower and insect shots!


Temple Balsall Churchyard - Butterfly Report 2012

Conservation at Temple Balsall Leaflet

The Church of St Mary the Virgin Temple Balsall - a Visitor's Guide

Temple Balsall 1150 - 1870 - A Short History

The Knights of the Temple and Of St John of Jerusalem and their Connection with Temple Balsall by F R Fairbairn


amanda peters said...

Lovely day out and sunshine... the Primroses look lovely.

Have seen more Lords and Ladies this year than ever before, all with no spots at the moment (I think) wonder if the spots can come later when the plant is older? Will look better when out.

Not managed to photograph any bees this year so far, loving the Red-tailed Bumble Bees.
Amanda xx

amanda peters said...

Forgot to say Little Old Man feeling much better, it's been a long (expensive) week :)
Amanda xx

Ragged Robin said...

Amanda Peters - Thanks so much Amanda - the Primroses were putting on a superb show (I obviously went to St Giles a few weeks back far too early!). Interesting thought about the spots. They are one of my favourite plants :)

First Bumble Bees I have managed to get a photo of - this one was quite drowsy (if I'd been closer to home would have provided him with some sugar water!).

So very pleased to hear Little Old Man has improved - I've been thinking of you a lot the last week hoping that he was getting better. Vet's fees can be extortionate :( We once had a rabbit that got the dreaded fly strike - he survived thanks to emergency treatment at vet and a great deal of tlc but it costs hundreds! You have my sympathies on the costs! I love rabbits but wouldn't have another one as fly strike is such a worry even if you coat them in the stuff that is supposed to keep flies at bay :( Although E would love a house rabbit until I explained flies get in houses too! Thanks for letting me know Old Man is getting better.

Simon Douglas Thompson said...

Celandine has had a great year, I've never seen carpets of it before. Primroses are loving churchyards.

Rosie said...

What a fascinating place, so full of history, the buildings are wonderful and the churchyard with primroses looks wonderful too. I spotted some of those leaves on our Sunday morning walk and wondered what they were. Now I know they are Cuckoo Pint which I had heard of. The photo of the Dunnock is lovely:)

David said...

Looks like a wonderful place for a relaxing stroll, the countryside is beautiful at this time of year when the sun does shine :-)

Loved all the primroses, they look particularly good when mixed in with the Celandines, and interesting to see the Wild Arum leaves. It will be interesting to see, as Amanda says, as to whether the dark spots appear as the plant matures.

Well done with the Red-tailed Bumblebee, one of my favourite bees :-)

Hope all is well and kindest regards :-)

PS. I have been looking around as regards your question on twitter as regards newts but have been unable to find anything concrete. However the following link might be of some interest if you haven't already seen it -


You may have to copy and paste the link into the address bar.

Ragged Robin said...

Simon Douglas Thompson - Thanks Simon. Agree about Celandine - Daffodils are doing well too despite flowering earlier this year there are still lots in flower :)

Rosie - Thanks very much Rosie. Must admit I rather love it there so much in a relatively small area. Look out for the unusual flowers of Wild Arum anytime soon and they look lovely in hedgerows in autumn when the berries develop - plant is poisonous though. Will tell my son that you liked the Dunnock photo!

David - Thanks so much. Yes, you are right the countryside is looking wonderful - we have April, May and June to look forward too! I always think it looks more jaded then when summer arrives!

Hopefully, we will return (for tea and cakes!!) so will check those leaves again and I will try and visit the churchyard early summer to look for butterflies so will keep an eye on them.

Thanks so much for the link re: newts - will try it now. I couldn't find anything definite either in books or the internet. Brian reckons there are dozens and dozens of newts this year (perhaps more survived due to mild Winter) its difficult to see how many as the frogs churned up a lot of mud when spawning so the pond is quite murky.

All well here thanks and hope you are well. Best wishes Caroline :)

Ragged Robin said...

David - Thanks so much for taking the time and trouble in finding the newt link. It makes fascinating reading especially as there is courtship behaviour going on in the pond - we may have even more than we thought!

Toffeeapple said...

Another lovely, rich post which I enjoyed very much. Everything is looking lovely just now but I am anxious for May when my perfumed Irises open, I do adore them.

Wendy said...

Lovely photos of your visit. Temple Balsall looks very interesting with so much to see and great history, especially the connections with the Templars and Hospitallers. I love the Green Man, too. I also love all the beautiful spring flowers and the bees!

Ragged Robin said...

Toffeeapple - Thanks so much - I am really pleased you enjoyed :) Not long to wait now until May - the perfumed irises sound really beautiful :)

Wendy - Thanks very much - so glad you enjoyed the post. Its a fascinating place with the mix of history and wildlife rich habitat. I think there are more Green Men in the church - will go inside on a future visit and hope to find them :)

Niki said...

I always enjoy your blog and follow it regularly. I see that my blog is in your blog list. I changed the address today and the old link won't work. My new blog address, if you're still interested in having it in your blog list, is http://spt-gso.blogspot.com/ .

Thanks. :-)

Ragged Robin said...

Niki - Thanks so much for leaving a comment and I am so glad you enjoy my posts.

Thanks also for leaving your new blog address as I enjoy reading your blog too - I will update my blog list.
Best wishes Caroline

John Scurr said...

The 1871 census for Balsall shows Thomas Truelove aged 65 a farmer of 223 acres employing 7 men & 3 boys at The Lodge Farm. That would make him born in about 1805/6. He is till there in 1881 but is replaced in 1891 by Thomas Hood Truelove, a 42 year old farmer & coal man. So if this is the correct Thomas Truelove he died in 1884.
Thomas Hood Truelove was not his son, but probably a nephew and I don't think Thomas had any children. But clearly there are other related Trueloves in the area.


Deb said...

Thanks for sharing such a lovely walk. The primroses look so pretty. The large cross with the floral wreath near the door looks interesting, i'm wondering if it's marking a grave or is there for another reason. I've not seen one that tall before. :)

Ragged Robin said...

John Scurr - Thanks enormously John for doing that research - it makes fascinating reading and I will tell my son later as he spotted the duplication of names on the gravestones (there were more on the back of the newer one). I will edit my post later (have to cook tea now!!) to mention what you have told me. It does indeed look as though there are still Trueloves (quite an unusual name). Thanks so much again - the information you have discovered is much appreciated :)

Deb - Thanks so much Deb. The primroses were a really beautiful sight. I think the floral arrangements round the church door may be to do with Easter (as we visited not long after).

Countryside Tales said...

It looks a fascinating place. We have a mix of spotted and plain leaved Arum here all of similar age so I don't think spots are age-related. Lots of lesser celandine as well, I agree it's been a very good year for it.

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales - Thanks so much for dropping in CT - do hope you are well and enjoying life with more time to yourself. When I get chance I'll look through some of my wild flower books and see if I can see why some Arum leaves are spotted and some not! Take care.