"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

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Winter in a Country Churchyard

I went along to a local churchyard one afternoon last week in search of my first snowdrops of the year.

St John the Baptist at Lea Marston dates back to the 1300's, the porch is 15th century and the chancel and tower were rebuilt in the 1870's. I've never been inside the church as it is kept locked due to a number of thefts that have taken place in the past.

I did find a few clumps of snowdrops in flower around the churchyard.

I wondered if this was the base of what used to be a churchyard cross?

Tomb covered in ivy and brambles. The churchyard is quite a haven for wildlife being surrounded on 2 sides by woodland and in the summer there is a wildflower meadow at the back of the churchyard full of flowers, such as Betony, and buzzing with bees and butterflies.

I spent a lot of time looking at mosses and lichens growing on the tombstones. The mosses in particular looked like miniature worlds.

I've put a few of the moss photos on i-spot and have received some help with id. The species at the bottom of the photo above could be Wall screw-moss (Tortula muralis) and the species in the background towards the top may be Capillary Thread-moss (Bryum capillare)

I think this species (also to be seen in the top two pics) is Grey-cushioned Grimmia (Grimmia pulvinata) and several people have agreed with this id.

Common Feather-moss (Kindbergia praelonga)?

This species could be Bryum dichotomum


I spoke to a couple as I was leaving who mentioned that there was a female yew at the back of the churchyard - so I may go back and check for flowers later this month. They also kindly told me of a local site for Toothwort which I will be checking out later in the year.

I've not spotted this sundial on previous visits.

I've seen lots of Hazel catkins this year but these were the first female flowers, looking like miniature sea-anemones, that I have seen.

This memorial marks a visit by William Gladstone in 1895. It used to have a plaque but was removed after someone tried to steal it!!

If you would like to see my previous visit to the churchyard during summer months please click here

In that post I mentioned I would try to visit the churchyard more often sadly I think this was my first visit since that post! but I will try and go more regularly this year.

Many thanks to i-spot for id help and for confirmation of Grey-cushioned Grimmia.


CherryPie said...

All very interesting, thank you :-)

I love the close up views of the lichen, fascinating and pretty.

amanda peters said...

It's nice to see the church in the winter months, love the mosses but such a frustrating subject as there are so many similar ones. Shame the church has to be locked up, singn of the time I'm afraid.
Not often I go past a church and not think of you.:)

Rosie said...

I love the way that churchyards and cemetaries have become havens for wildlife and the one you visited looks full of interesting plants and flowers. I bet it is wonderful in Spring ans Summer when the wildflowers are in the meadow. It's a shame that churches have to be locked but can quite understand the reasons why. The moss and lichens are fascinating and they do look like miniature worlds don't they?:)

Ragged Robin said...

Cherry Pie - Thanks so much. It is always interesting to see out lichens especially in old churchyards :)

Amanda Peters - Thanks very much. You are so right about mosses (and lichens!) being so frustrating. I have a couple of little pocket guides and checked out some websites but you really need to use a hand lens. There is a book you can buy on id but its ~£25 and I daren't buy any more at the moment!!!

Rosie - Thanks so much. It is so good to find one where wildlife is allowed to flourish - they can be such havens. Yes, they do resemble miniature worlds :) It is such a shame about so many being locked but as you say it is understandable. Luckily, when you go on holiday many are open. Churchyards themselves though and the outside of the church can reveal quite a lot :)

amanda peters said...

I have that book son got it for me for Christmas a few years back, lovely book but doesn't make it any easier as you get to see how many mosses there really is!!!!!
Had looked at getting a little microscope that you can hook up to the computer, which means you can take a image as well, not that expensive but the reviews on Amazon are a bit hit and miss. There are YouTube videos you can watch. Would be good for flowers and looking at micro moths I think. It's something about loading the software which seems to be a problem. Having said that I still would quite like one.
Amanda x

Ragged Robin said...

Amanda Peters - I've had that problem with my fungi books - when you look and realise how many species there are - so many similar to each other. I think mosses (and lichens) even harder!!

I've got a couple of children's microscopes which are basic but fun. Yes, I would love one of those that links into computer. They would be great for flowers and the micros (if you could get them to keep still!!!)as you say :) I do have a lot of magnifying glasses and hand lens but always forget to take them when I just pop out!

SeagullSuzie said...

Great to see the moss and lichen-they look so perfectly in place in the churchyard don't they. As well as having no time, the weather has been terrible here and there was no way to take the camera out or hold it still, before that it was freezing and too slippy to walk with the camera!

Pam said...

The moss does look amazing doesn't it, i'm going to leave id's on that alone, I struggle enough with flowers at times!!

Ragged Robin said...

SeagullSuzie - Thanks - gravestones and tombs appear to be good places to look for lichens and mosses. Hope your weather improves soon and you get more time. Have had the occasional nice day here but mainly wet or cold and icy!

Pam - Thanks Pam. I suspect moss id is beyond my skills and yes I struggle with flowers too sometimes!

Pete Duxon said...

amazing the amount of wildlife you find in a churchyard isn't it... they are mini nature reserves

Simon Douglas Thompson said...

As you may have seen on my own blog, I love the diffrent mosses and lichens that grow on gravestones

Countryside Tales said...

Great post once again. The toothwort sounds promising.

Ragged Robin said...

Pete Duxon -Thanks Pete - yes they can be amazing places for wildlife. Many have never been fertilised so especially good for wild flowers later in the year :)

Simon Douglas Thompson - Thanks Simon - yes I have noticed - you can never tire of looking at theme.

Countryside Tales - Thanks CT. Will hopefully go in search of Toothwort later in the year.

Toffeeapple said...

I have enjoyed your pictures but I have to say that moss and lichen are far too numerous for me to even make a start on recognising any of them.

David said...

What an enjoyable way to spend a few hours looking and photographing all the nature of an English churchyard. The mosses are so lovely and vibrant, and it is good to see the first Snowdrops appearing now that we are in February :-)

Hope all is well and my kindest regards to all :-)

Ragged Robin said...

Toffeeapple - Many thanks. Yes, they are hard to id - I did spend hours once in a churchyard with hand lens and id chart and gave up in the end!

David - Thanks so much. It was a very peaceful and relaxing hour or so :) No birds though which was a shame. Yes, it is lovely to see Snowdrops appearing :) Best wishes to you all too :)

Caroline Gill said...

How wonderful to have snowdrops - no sign of ours in the garden yet. I clicked on your mosses and lichen pics to enlarge - what a world of enchantment!

Ragged Robin said...

Caroline Gill - Thanks Caroline. Snowdrops certainly seem to be coming out in churchyards round here but in my garden just leaves and no buds yet! I love the little worlds the mosses and lichens provide :)

baili said...

this place looks like piece of heaven.i clicked images to enlarge .enjoyed them so much
you captured every view so beautifully .

Ragged Robin said...

Baili - thanks so much for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. I am so pleased you liked the images.

Midmarsh John said...

Always plenty to see in a village churchyard. I love the variety of gargoyles and grotesques which adorn churches.

Ragged Robin said...

Midmarsh John - Thanks so much for visiting and leaving a comment. Yes, you are right about churchyards - even if you can't get into the church itself there is plenty to see outside. St John the Baptist at nearby Berkswell has some superb gargoyles and grotesques.