"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

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Snowdrops, first Moth and Primroses at St Giles and a Brief Visit to Henley-in-Arden

After dropping B off to attend a re-union with old work colleagues and friends, D and I went along to St Giles Church, Packwood in search of snowdrops and primroses.

St Giles is a medieval church dating back 800 years.

This is a Scratch or Mass Dial on the exterior south wall of the Nave. This type of sundial was used when a stick was inserted in the centre point to indicate when Mass should be celebrated using the sun to tell the time.


and the first few early Primroses were flowering.

I took some photos of lichens on the church walls and it was only when I got home and uploaded the photos that I realised there was a moth right in the corner of one of the pictures I took. I am not sure how I missed it - I must have been too busy focusing on the lichens!! My first moth of the year and a new "tick" for me - a Grey Shoulder Knot (Lithophane ornitopus). Sorry the moth is a bit blurred as its heavily cropped from the original photo.

There are many mature yew trees scattered around the churchyard

and areas which are are not too neat and tidy but left alone to encourage wildlife.

This particular churchyard is a very rich site for wildflowers with other 100 species being identified - some of which are quite rare for this part of Warwickshire. It was a visit to this particular church several years ago that sparked off my interest in churchyards and the benefits that many of them provide for wildlife.

Some churchyards are manicured and neat and tidy but more and more parishes are creating a haven that can be used by wildlife and people. With the conversion of old pastures to arable farmland and improvements to grassland, churchyards, which have more or less escaped the appliance of weedkillers and fertilisers, often contain the last remnants of ancient, flower-rich grassland in an area. A wealth of wildlife can be found from ancient trees, lichens growing on gravestones and walls, fungi including waxcaps, ferns, reptiles and mammals.

With the decline of many common woodland and farmland birds, churchyards provide important habitat for these species providing shelter, food, roosting and nesting sites. The church building itself provides roosting and nest sites for bats and birds such as tits, starlings,house sparrows, kestrels, swifts, jackdaws and hirundines. Trees, including the evergreen yews and hollies are attractive to thrushes, greenfinches, coal tits and goldcrests. Graves, stone walls and crypts are home to invertebrates providing food and nesting sites for wrens, robins and tits. Grass which is often cut short near the more recent graves provides foraging areas for starlings, green woodpeckers, thrushes and wagtails. Grass that is left to grow longer where the graves are old is interspersed with wild flowers attracting insects which provide feeding areas for swallows, flycatchers and warblers. Quieter areas of the churchyard left to their own devices will contain nettles patches, elder and brambles and ivy will scramble over old tombs and trees.

There is a lot of interesting information on the website www.caringforgodsacre.org.uk and a few years ago I bought a very informative and delightful book (secondhand as its out of print now unfortunately) by Francesca Greenoak called "Wildlife in the Churchyard - The Plants and Animals of God's Acre" exquisitely illustrated by Clare Roberts.

Before leaving we stopped to take some pictures of sheep in a nearby field - no lambs yet!

D took these with the bridge camera - illustrating yet again the usefulness of the zoom!

Before going home we had a wander along Henley in Arden High Street. First port of call was Henley Bakery for a cup of tea and a gingerbread man.

This is one of my favourite art galleries - Brian Tovey does some lovely paintings of the local area - D bought me a small original oil painting of primroses for Christmas. I've just been searching through loads of photo files as I thought I'd taken a photo but I can't find it when I do I'll post it in another blog post.

The White Swan - a restored 16th century coaching inn.

There are quite a few pubs and restaurants along the High Street.

George House - once the George and Dragon Inn - a 16th century timber framed building although the frontal work is more recent.

There are several interesting Charity Shops - well worth visiting.

15th century Market Cross

The Guild Hall

Some of the stone sculptures on St John the Baptist Church - I wouldn't have got a photo of the second one as it was too high up on the building - thanks again to D and the bridge camera!

Stone sculptures, Cottage Signs, Doors and Gates

and finally the florist's shop.

Apologies to those who've been following my blog for some time as I know I have done several posts before on St Giles and Henley in Arden so the photos of the town may be a trifle familiar although this time I have tried not to waffle on too much yet again about the history of the town!!


A-Z of Henley in Arden

An Historical Guide to St Giles Church

"God's Acres' Live on as Local Nature Reserves" - article from BTO News 233 March - April 2001


Margaret Birding For Pleasure said...

NO I found the post fascinating as I did not see this trip before. Love the Snowdrops and although they have been out some time here I have not seen any primroses yet. All all your photos.

Anonymous said...

I've got the Gods Acre book, it's super isn't it? Great you got your first moth- lovely to have in a natural setting too. A Pale Brindled Beauty appeared on the window here the other night, a first for me too :o)

Ragged Robin said...

Margaret Adamson - Thanks very much Margaret - I am glad you enjoyed the post :) I'll try and get back to the churchyard in six weeks or so when the primroses should be at their best :)

Countryside Tales - Thanks so much CT. Yes, its one of my favourite books :) I've another of her books on bird names which is very good too. Well done on the Pale Brindled Beauty - unusually I haven't seen any moths on our windows. But if mild, dry weather continues might put the trap out this week.

Simon Douglas Thompson said...

primroses are early here too, and there's some early squill and celandione about too. Sparrows here are investigating their nest holes in my eaves...

Amanda Peters said...

Lovely post, we have Yew trees at the park, hadn't realised how poisonous the fruit is though to animals (dogs).
Hope to visit some Churchyards this year after reading the book, it has the most beautiful images in it.Perhaps we could try and do a churchyard post during the summer, one out of the book if possible !
Amanda xx

Ragged Robin said...

Simon Douglas Thompson - Thanks for the comment Simon. I checked near Packwood at a good location for Lesser Celandine but no sign here yet. Good to see signs of Spring - GSW drumming somewhere close to our garden today and Blue Tits have been investigating nest box :)

Amanda Peters - Thanks very much Amanda. You're right about yew (from memory I think most parts of the plant are poisonous) although many birds enjoy the berries!

That is a great idea about doing churchyard posts using some out of the book :) When I read it I made a list of some of the more local ones I was keen to visit - there were rather a lot!! :)

Em Parkinson said...

I love that moth by the lichen!

Ragged Robin said...

Em Parkinson - Thanks Em - still can't believe I missed it when I was there!! Beautiful moth though :)

Deb said...

I do love old churches and churchyards and i must look out for the Gods Acre book. Lovely post, thanks for sharing.:-)

Ragged Robin said...

Deb - Thanks very much. I am so glad you enjoyed the post. I love the history and atmosphere of old churches and seeing what flowers I can find in the churchyards. The book is a total delight well worth seeking out.

Caroline Gill said...

What a wonderful post! I saw my first violet of the season yesterday in our own churchyard - and have just had the joy of a pair of Bullfinches in the garden. What a lovely moth!

Ragged Robin said...

Caroline Gill - Thanks so much for your very kind comments :) I love wandering round churchyards looking for wild flowers - wonderful that you saw the first violets recently. Well done too on the garden Bullfinches - only get about one visit a year here, if lucky!