"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

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Following in the Footsteps of an "Edwardian Lady" - Part 6: Temple Balsall

On 21st July, 1906, Edith Holden wrote in "The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady" that she cycled to Baddesley and then walked to Temple Balsall (or Balsall Temple as she called it).

She described the area as a beautiful part of the country containing "low-lying meadows with sedgy streams meandering through them" with the banks being full of water flowers and rushes.

The power lines in the photo above would not have been there in Edith's day!

Edith searched for the wild Canterbury Bell which she had found growing by a stream some years previously and was pleased to rediscover the flower even though she managed to get badly stung by nettles in the process!

I looked for many of the flowers she mentioned seeing such as Purple Loosestrife (or Long Purples) as she called it, Meadow Cranes-bill, Water Forget-me-Not and Yellow Water Lilies. Sadly, I failed to find any of these plants just getting bitten by a horde of insects who had appeared in the heat and humidity. I am sure if I had been made of "sterner stuff" and searched more I would have found some of these species!

Although even Edith in 1906, having gone out of her way, failed to find one species that she was looking for - the Spreading Campanula which she had seen in this spot several years earlier.

Edith mentioned seeing large numbers of Meadow Brown Butterflies during her walk and a veritable horde of them by a bank of Henbit Nettle and Knapweed topped with flowering wild Privet. I did see a few butterflies - a sole Gatekeeper, Speckled Wood, Comma and several (but not hordes) of Meadow Browns.

I couldn't find the privet topped bank although, of course, it may no longer exist, but I did find a steep bank covered in wildflowers and grasses.

Scrambling over here I found a secret, little, sun-filled dell full of wildflowers,


Evening Primrose

Lady's Mantle - presumably a garden escape


Rose-bay Willow Herb

Part of the area Edith would no doubt have visited at Temple Balsall is now a 6.5 acre nature reserve managed by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust. The Cuttlebrook which bisects the reserve joins the River Blythe a little further east. I spent some time exploring this reserve.

The photo below shows an area full of the giant leaves of Butterbur

I eventually managed to find a Giant Bellflower (Campanula) - a flower painted by Edith following her visit.

Close to the Reserve is a 17 acre field bought by the Woodland Trust in 1999 and planted with trees to form a Millenium Wood. I am sure Edith would have approved wholeheartedly!

I wasn't lucky enough to see a Kingfisher as Edith did and nor could I find her dry marl-pit where she found a Great Mullein flowering. Its difficult knowing exactly where Edith walked whether by lane, or field or path but it does give me an excuse to return to this lovely area one day.

Temple Balsall itself is a charming village steeped in history with links to the Knights Templar, Katherine Parr (6th and final wife to Henry VIII), Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester (and a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I) and Lady Katherine Leveson. Its one of those places that time seems to have forgotten and I will do a further post on the village later.

Many thanks to Edith who inspired me to revisit this lovely area and also thanks to to Temple Balsall Nature Reserve Blog where you can see far better photos of the Giant Bellflower. Please see the link on the far right of the page or visit



The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden

Monday, 30 July 2012

More New Moth Species for the Year

Minimum temperature on Friday night, 27th July, dropped to 8.3 degrees centigrade but there were still several new species for the year in the trap on Saturday morning.

First of all the elegant Willow Beauty

Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing

The collar on this species is a delicate pale green when freshly emerged. I think this particular moth looks rather cute as if its wearing an alice band!


Marbled Beauty - these pretty little moths look as though they are covered in lichen (apologies the next 2 photos are rather blurred!)

Common Rustic - it is impossible to distinguish between Common, Lesser Common and Remm's Rustics without dissecting genitalia so this will remain the Common variety!

Riband Wave - not new for year but I love this species

and a nice looking Dark Arches

I am struggling on this micro moth. Its quite large for a micro about 12mm long and wingspan about 4mm. Looking at the new micro book my best guess is Athrips mouffetella which would be a totally new species for the garden.

Edit - Many thanks to Stewart - this is Phycitodes binaevella

As always if any of my identifications are incorrect or if anyone can help with the micro I would be exceedingly grateful.

Summary of Moths Trapped Friday, 27th July
9.00 until dawn
Minimum Temperature 8.3 degrees centigrade
15w Actinic Skinner Trap

2381 Uncertain (Hoplodrina alsines) x 21

2382 Rustic (Hoplodrina blanda) x 1

1921 Scalloped Oak (Crocallis elinguaria) x 1

2321 Dark Arches (Apama monoglypha) x 2

2089 Heart and Dart (Agrotis exclamationis) x 1

1937 Willow Beauty (Peribatodes rhomboidaria) x 1 New for Year

2111 Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing (Noctua janthe) x 1 New for Year

2193 Clay (Mythimna ferrago) x 1 New for Year

2293 Marbled Beauty (Cryphia domestica) x 2 New for Year

2050 Common Footman (Eilema lurideola) x 1

1293 Garden Grass-veneer (Chrysoteuchia culmella) x 2

1294 Crambus pascuella x 2

1713 Riband Wave (Idaea aversata) x 1

2343 Common Rustic (Mesapamea secalis) x 3 New for Year

0762 Athrips mouffetella x 1 ? Would be New for Garden

Edit the micro is Phycitodes binaevella - a new garden species.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Big Butterfly Count

Butterfly Conservation, in association with Marks and Spencer, are again running their annual Big Butterfly Count. This is a UK nationwide butterfly (and daytime moth) survey aimed at assessing the state of the environment. Butterflies react rapidly to environmental change and thus are excellent biodiversity indicators. Declines in butterflies can give early warning of other potential wildlife losses.

Anyone can take part you just need to watch your garden, park, woodland or anywhere suitable for 15 minutes making a note of any butterflies or day flying moths seen and enter your results at www.bigbutterflycount.org.

This year the survey runs from 14th July to 5th August so you've still got time to take part! The Count was launched in 2010 when 10,000 participants saw 210,000 flutters and day flying moths and in 2011 34,300 participated seeing 322,330 butterflies and moths. Its great fun especially if you have children.

I did my first count last Thursday and saw absolutely no butterflies at all the only insects around were two white-tailed bumble bees and one common carder bee. I repeated the count on Friday and this time managed to see just one butterfly - a Small White. This year is the poorest year I can remember for garden butterflies. I have only seen 5 species all year - Brimstone, Speckled Wood, Orange Tip, Holly Blue and Small White. No Peacocks, Large or Green Veined Whites, Red Admirals, Small Tortoiseshells,Commas, Gatekeepers or Meadow Browns have yet to put in an appearance.

Changing the subject entirely, I drove past the Fairy Door on Friday and it looks as though the gnomes are celebrating the Olympics too!


Friday, 27 July 2012

A Footman Has Arrived!

A rather belated report of moths trapped last Saturday! I think the catch would have been a lot larger but, in addition, to the number of micros especially that always escape as I pot the moths, I forgot to close the trap so many more no doubt disappeared before I got round to emptying it.

A few new species for the year.

The dreaded Large Yellow Underwings have arrived - only one this week but soon there will be dozens of the things.

Hopefully, my id is right on this one - a Common Footman. Last year I got my Scarce and Common Footmen all muddled up but I've compared photos and checked the "bible" and I am pretty sure this is "Common"!

Summary of Moths Trapped Saturday, 21st July

15w Actinic Skinner Trap

Minimum Temperature 12.4 degrees centigrade

Uncertain x 18

Heart and Dart x 1

Dark Arches x 2

Silver Y x 1

Large Yellow Underwing x 1 New for Year

Garden Grass-veneer x 2

Agriphila straminella x 1

Common Footman x 1 New for Year

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

A Summery Afternoon at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens

I popped along to Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens this afternoon - lovely to see the sun for a change but it was rather hot and humid! The Gardens are looking beautiful and full of summer colour.

My Lady's Border

Two of the Yucca's are flowering (with the Melon Ground in the background)

Melon Ground

The Green House built around 1729

Flowers and Borders

View from the North-west Pier

The North Orchard

Honeysuckle was scrambling over walls everywhere

Quinces are forming on trees in the "Secret Garden"

The South Kitchen Garden

The Summer House


I was thinking how early rowan berries are forming this year when I realised this tree not only had berries but was also flowering again!

According to folklore if the rowan flowers twice there will be an excellent potato crop and many autumn weddings! In mythology the rowan is considered a magical tree which protects again malevolent creatures.

There are some wonderful folk names for the Rowan/Mountain Ash such as "Delight of the Eye", "Quickbeam", "Round Tree", "Surb Apple", "Thor's Helper", "Whispering Tree", "Witch Wood", "Witchen Wittern" and "Roden-Quicken-Rowan".

Unfortunately I didn't have time to visit the Extra Gardens so it was time to leave after admiring the hanging baskets near the Visitor's Centre

and thinking what a nice corner this was for a cup of tea and cake!!

Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens are a unique example of an English Baroque Garden and are being restored as closely as possible to the period 1680 - 1762.

For more information including opening times please visit their website at

Reference: Wikipedia