"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

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Christmas Tree Festival at St Michael's, Maxstoke

I was determined to try and find the time today to visit the Christmas Tree Festival at St Michael's, Maxstoke. So leaving the Christmas cake cooking - B was under strict instructions to check it after two hours and cover it with foil if it was over-browning! -, D and I went along to the church.

Although I've taken photos of the exterior of the church in the past I have never been inside.

In 1333 Sir William de Clinton (builder of nearby Maxstoke Castle) founded a Chantry on the site of the present church. The church of St Michael and All Angels was built not long after. Sir William also arranged for the building of nearby Maxstoke Priory in 1342 for 12 Canons of the Augustinian Order. The Priory was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538 and today only a few ruins remain.

The Christmas Tree Festival was a delight although, as usual the camera struggled with the low light so most of the photos were taken using the flash.

The SE window in the photo below and

this window in the Gallery contain fragments of 15th century stained glass.

The view of the church from the Gallery which was added in the 18th century.

You may remember I missed the ancient floor tiles at Chastleton Church and I managed to do it yet again today - the sanctuary has 14th century floor tiles.

I discovered that the church is open on Sundays during the Summer so I will return and also take more photos of the Priory (I think I have shown you a few pictures of the ruins in a past post(s).

D was using the Canon Bridge SX50 HS and it performs better in low light than my camera even without flash - see photos below.

We went and had a look at the Craft Fair in the Village Hall opposite the church. I bought a couple of Christmas Tree decorations and we had tea and cake - D Victoria Sandwich and me Sticky Ginger Loaf - sorry forgot to take a photo!

Sunset - photos taken with the Canon Bridge -

and setting sun making the autumn colours glow - colours look false but the photo is unedited.

It is good to have transport again :)

Reference : Guide Book to St Michael's Maxstoke

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Mini Autumn Garden Bioblitz (Staying local at the moment!)

Apologies for lack of blog posts recently. We have been without a car for several weeks - there are times I regret the decision to get rid of two cars and replace them with one! I won't go into detail as this is a public blog (just in case the culprit is caught and goes to court)but, as a few of you already know, I was carjacked and robbed of the car. It was rather a terrifying experience but thankfully I was unharmed. The car hasn't been recovered and we are still waiting for the insurance company to settle the claim but hopefully will have the car replaced this week so I shall be able to get out and about again.

Amanda from "The Quiet Walker" suggested that I do an autumn garden bioblitz which I did a week or so back. I must admit I didn't put anywhere near the effort into it as I do the Spring one! (it was too cold) but here are the results.

Birds - did better here than in the Spring one!

Blue Tit
House Sparrow
Great Tit,
Coal Tit
Wood Pigeon
Long-tailed Tit
Stock Dove
Carrion Crow

There was a warbler around but it remained unidentified as it flew off as soon as I had found the binoculars!


Grey Squirrel

Plants (self-seeded) - I decided just to count the flowers/trees/shrubs that were actually still in flower or had a few leaves or berries. It is always difficult in our garden as we have planted so many native trees and shrubs and wild flowers over the years so I only ever count what has self-seeded naturally.


Wall Speedwell (not sure if I should really count this one because you have to look closely to spot any leaves!)


Yellow Corydalis


Ragwort - still just about flowering in the "No Mow Zone" which really should have been cut down by now!


White Clover
Common Whitebeam

I am having a "senior moment" over this species - does anyone know if it is Ground Ivy??

Various mosses - still to be identified

Hart's Tongue Fern

Unsurprisingly, there were very few invertebrates about. I did see a few Common Rough Woodlice when I lifted up a pot and I found this Banded Snail snuggled in among the leaves.

I am sure if I had spent a little more time I may have found a few more wild flowers hanging on in nooks and crevices but it was an interesting experiment and one I may well repeat so thanks to Amanda for the idea.

Other Garden "News"

There are many reports of Waxwing sightings coming in from Scotland, the North and East of England so I'm hoping we may be set for a "Waxwing Winter". Sadly, Blackbirds have eaten almost all the garden Rowan, Pyracantha and Whitebeam berries, so I have put half a dozen or more apples on sticks around the garden on the off chance eventually Waxwings may arrive! Sadly, I had forgotten that Grey Squirrels are partial to apples too so am having to replace them rather too regularly!

B has cut the wildflower area and had another go at "weeding out" the couch grass so he could sow more yellow rattle. It will be interesting to see what happens next year. Sadly, he has also given the wooded area behind it's yearly haircut - he is rather over zealous! The pile of twigs has been there for some years for invertebrates and hedgehogs.

In flower - Winter Jasmine, self-seeded Lobelia, Sweet Pea and Nasturtium. We still also have a few Cosmos flowers scattered about.

We always leave seedheads on perennials until the Spring to provide food for birds and overwintering sites for insects. This was one of the Honesty plants where Orange Tip caterpillars were feeding and I live in hope there are pupae somewhere around although I am yet to find any.

Feathers remaining from a Sparrowhawk strike on a Wood Pigeon. Below are a few records shots taken with the Canon Bridge Camera through the kitchen window. The Sparrowhawk returned over the course of several days to finish it's meal. Warning the photos are a bit gory so you may prefer not to scroll any further down!