"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, 30 August 2010

Berkswell - Art, Crypts, Mice and Bears

During the course of the bank holiday weekend we paid a visit to the pretty Warwickshire village of Berkswell partly to attend an Art Exhibition held by Trevor and Andrew Boult who paint rather good wildlife and Warwickshire countryside pictures. The exhibition is held yearly and there were more paintings than usual this year. I particularly like the paintings of the Stratford Canal near Lapworth and the snow scenes. Far too expensive to buy an original but I do buy the occasional print.

My other reason for wanting to visit was to have a look round the twelfth century Norman Church built upon the site of an earlier Saxon church which features in Simon Jenkins' book of "England's Thousand Best Churches".

Medieval Preaching Cross in the Churchyard

St John Baptist Berkswell built in the 12th Century

The two storey gabled and half timbered porch was added in the 16th century. The room above the porch has been used as the priest's room, village school, parish council house and today as the vestry.

The present tower was built in the 15th century but it replaced an earlier one because one of the present bells dates from the mid 14th century.

The Chancel

Most of the wood in the church was carved last century by a famous woodcarver, Robert Thompson whose mark is a mouse. At least 9 carved wooden mice can be found within the church.

The crypt was very impressive and much bigger than I expected. Both parts were built in the twelfth century and there was probably an earlier crypt that was used as a shrine.

The low ledge running around the wall was used by elderly and infirm to rest and led to the expression "the weakest go to the wall" according to the church guide.

The western octagonal crypt

A few photos of stained glass within the Church

War Memorial within the churchyard

The Well House - once the rectory. Maud Watson (first woman lawn tennis champion at Wimbledon) was the daughter of the rector and lived here.

Just outside the churchyard is an ancient well. Here monks who brought their faith from nearby Lichfield would have baptised converts.

Village Stocks

The Bear and Ragged Staff Inn dates from the 16th century

Inspired by "Quacks of Life" blog (see link on the right) I have been experimenting with black and white and sepia photos. Although I do prefer colour photos I think the black/white and sepia style really suits old buildings.

I will certainly revisit Berkswell and I gather from the local birding grapevine that there is a really good location nearby for spotted flycatchers - another good reason to visit next year!

I'll post a garden and moth update in a couple of days - I think the amount of moths caught in the trap this weekend is the highest yet this year. Underwings, especially yellow, are dominating and there are also an awful lot of worn moths. Am slowly wading my way through identifications -its going to take a long time!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Rain Stops Play!

Constant heavy showers over the last six days means there is little to report on wildlife in the garden recently. Actually, Sunday was dry and sunny but the day seemed to be dominated by Newcastle hammering Aston Villa 6-0 (still shell-shocked!!).

I haven't seen a butterfly for days and I only get the odd sighting of a bird at the feeders as it dashes from cover braving the rain to grab a morsel of food. I haven't bothered running the moth trap as it has rained every night and my one and only experience of emptying a trap after a night of heavy rain (had to rescue half drowned moths languishing in sodden egg boxes) means I am not in a hurry to risk it again.

I shall be passing near Packwood House and Gardens tomorrow afternoon so IF its dry I will pop in and take a few photos.

Last night when my son arrived home he called to tell me there was a beautiful double rainbow and I just managed to grab my camera in time to take a couple of shots. The second rainbow had almost faded but the main one was still full of colour.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens

I paid a quick visit to Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens again last week. These gardens were the first local gardens to open after the winter break and I first visited in February as I wanted to try out the camera I had had for Christmas. I was so impressed with the gardens that I decided I would try and visit once a month and make a photographic record of the changes in the gardens through the seasons.

The scaffolding has now been removed from the front of Castle Bromwich Hall. The first Hall was built by a Sir Edward Devereux towards the end of the sixteenth century. In 1657 the Hall and estate were bought by Sir John Bridgeman and his family made alterations between 1660 and 1719 resulting in the Hall you can see in the photograph below. As mentioned in a previous posting the Hall is privately owned and it is not possible to view the interior.

I only had an hour to spare so I only had time for a quick walk through the Walled Gardens.

Lady Bridgeman's Garden is still full of colour

Agapanthus flowering in the Melon Ground.

Border near the North Orchard

The North Orchard contains apples and pear trees full of fruit

Grapes growing along one of the walls surrounding the garden

Rose Hips are forming

View towards the Green House built in 1729

Lower Wilderness

Several beds full of Sunflowers in the South Kitchen Garden

I would love some of these large thistle type plants in my garden. The flowers were covered in bees and hoverflies.

One of the flower beds in the Upper Wilderness

This was a most unusual shrub with flowers (or seedheads - not sure which!) looking like tiny chinese lanterns.

Edit - Many thanks to Dean who has identified this shrub as Bladder Senna (the "lanterns" are seed pods!).

I didn't see many birds and there were few butterflies around on this visit - just a couple of small whites.

Again the Gardens were very quiet - I only saw three sets of visitors. Although I love the peacefulness there I do worry about the future of these Gardens. I must admit I haven't visited at the weekend so they may get many more visitors then and they do hold special events - the few I have been to have been well attended. This year is the 25th Anniversary of the establishment of the Castle Bromwich Hall Garden Trust and they are holding a Celebration Day on 18th September so hopefully that will raise funds.