"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, 30 July 2017

Bee-Eaters and a Hidden Treasure in St Winifred's Church, Kingston-on-Soar, Notts

Bee-eaters are a species of bird I would dearly love to see and, as we don't go abroad for our holidays, a sighting in the UK is my only hope. In 2005 (I can't believe it was that long ago!) a pair nested in Herefordshire and we duly made the trip. Only to be told on arrival that the nest had been predated by a fox the night before and the adults had not been seen that day. It wasn't an entirely wasted journey as we watched a Dunnock feeding a juvenile Cuckoo which was a thrilling encounter and had lunch in a pub called "The Bunch of Carrots". Bee-eaters also nested near Niton, Isle of Wight, on National Trust land in 2014 but that was a year we didn't visit the island and they also nested in a Cumbrian quarry in 2015 - a bit too far for the day for us. So I was thrilled that this year there had been the closest sightings yet to home in a Cemex Quarry at East Leake, Nottinghamshire, where the RSPB had arranged access to a viewpoint and car parking. So last weekend we made the trip - only about 45 minutes (well it would have been if I hadn't managed to mis-read the satnav and we got lost!!) from home.

It was a relief to see the car park only had about dozen cars (I know one weekend 1000 people had descended to see the birds!). The view point is only about a 10/15 minute walk away via a bridle path.


Approaching the "twitch" - there were only a handful of people there.

We saw five birds during the hour plus we stayed and most of the time they were flying around or perched on this ash tree.

They were quite some distance away so I was glad we had taken the telescope so we could get far better views than managed with binoculars. Too far away really for photos - this was the best my Olympus dslr with the 70-300 mm lens could manage!

and not much better with the Canon bridge SX50


although on this heavily cropped picture you might be able to see it was a Bee-eater if you click on it to enlarge the image.


I managed better photos of this very tame juvenile Robin who came to visit us.

I wouldn't normally give out information on nesting attempts by such rare species but it has been widely broadcast on social media (including by a group of RSPB birders) that eggs in 3 nests have hatched which is superb news. Understandably the nests are under a 24 hour guard.


I couldn't resist treating myself to a Bee-eater pin badge and t-shirt - it is not every day you finally get to see such a beautiful bird :)

After we had got lost on the journey we passed through some rather pretty villages and decided we would go back and explore one of them - Kingston-on-Soar.

We parked by the Village Hall - where there was an art exhibition which kept B occupied. Retrospectively, I wish I had spent more time there as one of the artists specialised in paintings of churches. However, I had spotted a church which looked open.


What a lovely idea - books in a bus-shelter.



The first reference to the village was in the Domesday book. The village gets its name from the old English "cyne-stan" meaning "royal stone". It is not known today where the royal stone was as it has long since disappeared but it may have had a religious significance.


St Winifred's Church


Parts of the church date back to the 16th century - the chancel was built in 1538 as a chantry chapel for the Babington family. The church was extended in the 19th century and rebuilt and altered in 1900 although thankfully retaining the old chapel and chancel - these did, however, have to be carefully taken down to replace weak foundations and then replaced brick by brick.

A church with two Saints - The church was originally dedicated to St Wilfred but then unusually the dedication was changed to St Winifred when it re-opened in 1900.

I didn't at this stage realise that the church appears in the book "England's Thousand Best Churches" by Simon Jenkins or the delightful reason why.

I'd left my camera in the car as it had the wrong lens on for church pictures and have to admit I commandeered the Canon bridge camera from D so I could take a few photos.

Stained Glass

The Babington Monument was the hidden treasure in the church and what a beautiful surprise it was.

It is one of the loveliest items I have ever come across in a parish church - I could have spent hours studying and admiring it instead of the half hour or so we spent there.

Carved in limestone, possibly by a local Nottinghamshire craftsman, it was erected on the instruction of Dame Katherine (widow of Sir Anthony Babington) in her will in 1537 where she instructed her son John to have "a tomb of alabaster stone made over my husband and me in the church between the chancel and the chapel". However, today no effigy or tomb can be seen.

The Babington family originated in Northumberland and later acquired property in Derbyshire and Kingston. Many of you will have heard of Anthony Babington born in 1561, who was the great grandson of the Anthony mentioned above. He was brought up a Roman Catholic and in April 1586 he was involved in a plot where part of the group planned to kill Elizabeth I whilst he rescued Mary Queen of Scots who was at that time imprisoned at Chartley House, near Stafford. Walsingham, Minister to Elizabeth, knew of this plot almost from its conception as a letter between Anthony and Mary giving details of the plans was discovered and read by Walsingham's agents. These incriminating letters were enough to bring Anthony and his fellow plotters to trial and also Mary. Anthony was executed in September, 1586 and Mary the following February. There is a story attached to the Babington monument that Anthony hid on top of the canopy and managed to evade capture for several days until he was eventually discovered.

The 4 piers, base and shafts of the monument are decorated with tracery, carved heads and figures; the capitals decorated with babes and tons (the Babington rebus), the canopy contains carvings of angels holding shields with the Babington arms and those of the families they married into, foliates, more babies and barrels and tracery. On the east side is a carving of the Last Judgement.

Sorry for all the photos but the carvings are so wonderful it was hard to leave many pictures out!

The font made of Chellaston alabaster was installed in 1933 "in memory of Margaret, Lady Belper (1852 - 1922)" as a gift to the church from her son Algernon Henry, 3rd Baron Belper.

It was an Open Churches Weekend in Nottinghamshire and there was cake!!! :)

*D - photos taken by D with the Canon bridge SX 50

The rest were taken by me either with the Olympus e-420 70-300 mm lens (bee-eater walk) and with the Canon bridge camera at the church.


A Guide to the Church and a short History of the Church and its Worship compiled by Brendan Magill

Guide book to The Babington Monument

Many thanks too to the kind and helpful church warden who was so full of information. I will email you if I can return in the future.