"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

Friday, 29 June 2012

"Flowers in the Rain"

One afternoon earlier this week I had to go into Knowle and I decided to make a detour on the way home and check out the wildflowers in St. Giles churchyard, Packwood.

It had been raining steadily for some time but I was really lucky when I arrived as it more or less stopped raining for the half hour or so I was there.

Most of the churchyard has been left unmown and is covered in wild grasses and wildflowers.

There were a lot of Fox and Cubs flowers around - I love the tawny colour of these flowers

Buttercups, Fox and Cubs and Hawkbit sp.

The tiny pretty flowers of Herb Robert

Herb Robert is also known as "bird's eye" or "poor Robin". Apparently in Somerset children are told "If 'ee pick 'n someone 'll take 'ee".

Wild Grasses

Bird's Foot Trefoil? (Eggs and Bacon)

Grasses, Vetch, Fox and Cubs and Hawkbit

I love the way plants will establish themselves in nooks and crannies - here in a tree stump

Hawkbit sp

Vetch (Tufted?)

Ribwort Plaintain

More photos of the wonderful wildlife habitat this churchyard provides

The churchyard is slightly more "manicured" at the entrance to the porch in the area where newer graves are located.

Speedwell is still flowering

Near the church porch I found a cultivated rose bush intertwined with dog roses

Lady's Mantle has become naturalised in the churchyard - I assume it has spread from grave plantings or wreaths.

This plant is named after the Virgin Mary. During the Middle Ages alchemists collected dew from its leaves to aid in unsuccessful attempts to build a Philosopher's Stone which it was believed would turn base metals into gold and silver

I'm not 100% sure about some of the species above i.e. bird's foot trefoil and hawkbit so if my id's are wrong please let me know!

I did my keep my eye open for Spotted Flycatchers but didn't see any today although I understand they have nested nearby in the past.


"Discovering the Folklore of Plants", a Shire Classic, by Margaret Baker

Monday, 25 June 2012

Following in the Footsteps of an "Edwardian Lady"- Part 4: Local Villages and Lanes

In the "Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady" written in 1906, Edith Holden writes of a long country walk she made on 25th June through Catherine de Barnes, Hampton-in-Arden, Bickenhill and Elmdon. She mentions the fragrant perfume of wild roses and honeysuckles from the hedgerows and wild grasses and clover from the meadows. She found other wildflowers on her walk - meadowsweet, self-heal, dogwood and great burnet.

Although I cannot be sure of the exact route she took as she may have travelled not only along country lanes but across fields, it was certainly a long walk of between 10 and 15 miles (16 - 24 kilometres) bearing in mind she would have walked from her home in Olton. One sunny afternoon last week I managed to "escape" and follow in her footsteps - although to be honest much of my journey was done by car interspersed with many short walks!

I certainly found foxgloves, dog roses and honeysuckle in abundance but no sign of meadowsweet, great burnet or self heal and, sadly, meadows full of wild grasses and flowers are now very few and far between!

I started my journey in a lane near Catherine de Barnes

where I found a field full of buttercups

and foxgloves growing in the hedgerow.

Foxgloves have a number of charming "country" names such as goblins' or witches' thimbles, snoxums, lady's gloves, ladies'fingers, fox fingers and elf gloves. Interestingly, a Doctor William Withering who discovered the medicinal value of digitalis (contained in the leaves of the plant) in treating heart disorders, lived in Warwickshire.

At the bottom of the lane I came upon Ravenshaw Ford. Edith Holden mentions crossing and following fords several times in her diaries so she may well have visited this one.

I stopped off at the village of Catherine de Barnes (the name derives from Ketelberne, a twelfth century Lord of the Manor), and today locals often call the village Catney. In 1907 (the year after the Country Diary was written) an isolation hospital was built in Henswood Lane in the village to house people with contagious diseases such as diptheria, typhoid fever and smallpox. The hospital opened in 1910 and in 1978 the unfortunate Janet Parker died there - the last known victim of small pox. In 1987 the hospital was fumigated and turned into a housing development.

I went a walk around the village which now contains many more houses than would have been there when Edith used to visit so I have concentrated on buildings that she would have seen as she walked through.

St Catherine's Church, now a Church Hall, built in 1879. The bunting would have been hung during recent Diamond Jubilee celebrations for the Queen.

The Boat Public House

I went a walk along the Grand Union Canal which bissects the village

There were more foxgloves growing on the banks of the canal

Other flowers in bloom included buttercup and speedwell, bramble and I think the yellow flower may be creeping cinquefoil.

I continued following Edith's footsteps to Hampton-in-Arden and found more wildflowers along a lane

Cow wheat?

There may not be fields of clover but I did find a few clumps of clover flowers on my travels

Hedge Woundwort


"Wreathing honeysuckles winding
with the westering sun
Self entwined and twig entangled
bush and briar o'er run, -
What a mass of yellow bloom!
Clustering heads of sweet perfume!
Finger-buds of rose unfurling
Clarion trumps their tips uncurling
Opening to the azure sky
Waxen throats of minstrelsy!"

"Honeysuckle" by E M Heath

Hampton in Arden is a much larger village today due to housing development than it would have been in Edith's time so again a few photos of buildings that would have been there when she visited.

The parish church of St Mary and St Bartholomew has a chancel dating back to 1130

Ox-eye daisies line the footpath

The White Lion dates back to the seventeenth century

I stopped off along a lane on the way to Bickenhill. Edith mentions having a picnic under a hedge near pink and white clover flowers with grasses nodding nearby where a pair of robins fluttered and sang nearby - possibly in a place like this

Sadly, there were few clover flowers and the road signs would not have been apparent in Edith's time! but it is nice to see a field with tiny newly planted trees

Further along the lane I found more wild roses in the hedgerow

and a few more clover flowers

A view across fields of oil seed rape - I don't believe this crop would have been grown in Edith's time

but it was nice to see a few poppy flowers

Finally, I arrived at Bickenhill an old Anglo Saxon settlement mentioned in the Domesday book.

The Parish church of St Peter dates from 1140 but there have been many alterations and additions over the centuries

Lichens growing on a church wall

An interesting looking footpath!

More fragrant delicate dog roses

Edith continued her journey to Elmdon Park but I had run out of time so I will feature the park in another post as its a place that Edith often rambled around.

"Why will your mind for ever go
To meads in sunny Greece?
Our song-birds have as fine a flow,
Our sheep as fair a fleece;
Among our hills the honey-bee,
And in the leaning pear -
I tell you there is Arcady
in leafy Warwickshire"

by Norman Gale

Sadly, two of the places mentioned above are going to be affected by large developments. Much of Bickenhill may disappear due the proposed runway extensions at nearby Birmingham Airport. The proposed HS2 rail route will pass very close to Hampton-in-Arden and its fifteenth century packhorse bridge over the River Blyth. According to Warwickshire Wildife Trust's website the biodiversity of Warwickshire is likely to be adversely affected by HS2. 90 statutory or non-statutory wildlife sites, such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Local Nature Reserves, in Warwickshire are going to be affected directly or indirectly by the proposed railroute. Of this 90 sites, 46 are located directly along the planned route and will suffer from habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation.

I wonder what Edith would have made it all - I suspect she would have been horrified!


The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden
Nature Notes by Edith Holden

Discovering the Folklore of Plants by Margaret Baker - a Shire Classic