"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

Thursday 22 February 2024

Snowdrops at Temple Balsall


Temple Balsall had a snowdrop event on Sunday 11th February which I was hoping to visit but at the moment there are so many roads closed on the route mainly due to HS2 work and that weekend both the M42 and A452 were closed as well while a bridge was being demolished and another road was shut due to flooding. Consquently I abandoned the idea! but D and I did visit Temple Balsall on a later day in the same week.

There were snowdrops to be seen everywhere - in the car park, in the churchyard, along the Bread Walk and in a wood by the cemetery.

I love Temple Balsall as its just steeped in history and has such a special atmosphere. It takes its name from the preceptory of the Knights Templar that was founded there c1150.  In 1312 when the Templars were disbanded the estate passed to the Hospitallers who retained the land until  1541 at the Dissolution.  Two grand-daughters of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, bequeathed money to the area.  Lady Anne Holborne (died 1663) left money for the church to be repaired and an endowment for the minister.  Lady Katherine Leveson (died 1674) endowed the Hospital and the school. 

Temple House was a house built in 1740 and was used by  the governors of Lady Leveson's hospital - a Francis Smith and William Smith II.

The graves in the foreground belong to the Dames which was the name given centuries ago to the ladies who lived in the almshouses (hospital).

St Mary's was repaired in the C17th and restored by George Gilbert Scott in 1848/9.  Does the church date back to the Hospitallers or the Templars?  Pevsner says that using historical evidence it has been suggested it was built by the Hospitallers c1320 or later but stylistically it is likely to belong the the later C13th and the Templars.

The church is now open until 2.30 pm each day - sadly we were just a bit too late to find it open. Its a church I really do need to revisit to get better photos of the interior.

Snowdrops are also known as Candlemas Bells, The Purification flower, Fair Maids of February and Snow Piercer.

Research suggests that they were introduced to Britain in the C15th by Italian monks. They are not a native British plant and those seen in the wild would be garden escapees or planted.  They are now naturalised and found in woods and near streams throughout Britain. Snowdrops are able to survive winter weather, frosts and snow as they contain antifreeze proteins that stop crystals that would damage the cells forming.  The flowers provide welcome nectar for early emerging bees.

In the Language of Flowers snowdrops represent hope, purity, humility, virgin innocence and gratitude.  They are often found in churchyards and monastery gardens as they were grown for the Purification of the Virgin Mary, the Feast of Candlemas, on 2nd February each year.

The Old Hall was encased in brick in the C19th and inside there are the hidden remains of a late C12th aisled hall which belonged to the preceptory.

After wandering round the churchyard and garden at the Old Hall we walked along the Bread Walk, past a stream, to a wood. Snowdrops and a few primroses were growing on the grass at the side of the path.

The small wood which is on the Green Man Trail was full of snowdrops.

Walking past the church again on our way back to the car park.

I am sure this sign is new and its of great interest because when we visited last August and walked all round the area I saw this particular grave in the churchyard and wondered then if there was a connection.

(The two photos of the grave were taken last August)

Old barn by the car park.  

We briefly called into the farm shop at Balsall Common on the way home.


"The Buildings of England Warwickshire" by Chris Pickford and Nikolaus Pevsner, Yale University Press, 2016.

"Britain's Wildflowers: A Treasury of Traditions, Superstitions, Remedies and Literature" by Rosamond Richardson.

All photos taken by me with the Panasonic Lumix FZ330 bridge camera. (I don't particularly rate my photos but if anyone wishes to use one I would be grateful for an email first - thanks).

Thursday 15 February 2024

Recent Reading and Snowdrops in a Local Churchyard


Recent Reading

Its not often I don't finish a book but I abandoned this Stephen Booth book after a few chapters.  I usually enjoy the Cooper and Fry books but there was something about this book with its in depth details of suicides that I found depressing.  I will try the next book in the series though but I doubt I will return to this one.

This was another book I nearly abandoned! But I persevered and  I am glad I did as it was very good although a bit lengthy.  Its just as well I enjoyed it in the end  as I had already bought on special offer a boxed set of the next 3 books on the kindle!

I finally finished the last book in the Thrush Green series.  I've enjoyed re-reading these - nice cosy reading especially the earlier books.

I do enjoy the books published my Little Toller and am slowly building up a collection.  This very interesting book  on mermaids covers 3000 years of folklore, mythology, art and literature connected with mermaids.

I thought at first this might be the final book in the Hillary Greene series by Faith Martin set near Oxford but thankfully its not!  I'm really enjoying these books.  I think it makes a difference if you like the main character in a series of books - thinking here of Merrily Watkins in the Phil Rickman books and Ruth Galloway in the books by Elly Griffiths and I would also class Hillary as a likeable "heroine". 


I haven't had chance to go to some of my favourite local churches where there is a good display of snowdrops but I did stop off at the churchyard of St Mary and St Margaret's at Castle Bromwich when I was out the other day.  The snowdrops there are slowly starting to flower.

I saw a few primroses and crocuses in flower and this grave was covered with seedheads. Leaving seedheads in place over the winter is a great idea as it provides food for birds and/or a home for insects.

I hope everyone is staying safe and well.

All photos taken by me with the Panasonic Lumix FZ330 bridge camera. (I don't particularly rate my photos but if anyone wishes to use one of mine or one of my son's I would be grateful for an email first - thanks).

Saturday 3 February 2024

A Walk Around Local Country Lanes


Last weekend D and I did one of our favourite circular walks round the hamlet of Shawbury in North Warwickshire.  Its only about mile so a good walk when you haven't got that much time and there is a bitter cold wind!

I seem to remember when we last went the road was flooded here and

it was a bit too muddy to venture onto public footpaths!

We passed a lovely little cottage with a gate in the hedge leading towards a wishing well.

A few seedheads are still visible in the hedgerows.

Hazel and Alder Catkins

Signs of new growth in one part of the hedge and daffodils are starting to appear although no buds.

In this wood a small animal scampered through the trees. For some unknown reason my first thought was that looks like a wild boar but I think that is unlikely as I haven't seen them reported locally. We came to the conclusion it was a muntjac.

Some of the photos D took.






We stopped off on the drive home by St Cuthbert's Shustoke to get a photo of an old  barn by Church Farm. D has found a website with some information on the barn. It is a typical Midlands box frame barn which is probably the same age as the C17th farmhouse.  If you click on the photo to enlarge it there are three box framed bays to the left. Alterations were made probably in the C18th to the far end of the barn where the bays were replaced with brick walls.  Ventilation holes can be seen in a diamond shaped pattern. The barn is now used as a garage and workshop.

I am still trying to research what the object in the foreground is without much success!

We only saw a few birds on the walk - flocks of tits which included Long Tailed Tits plus Blackbirds, Chaffinches and a flock of Fieldfares.

Photos taken by me with the Panasonic FZ330 bridge camera. Those by my son with the Canon SX50HS bridge camera. (I don't particularly rate my photos but if anyone ever wishes to use one of mine of my son's I would appreciate an email first - thanks).

Reference - Website - www.greatbarns.org.uk