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