"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

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Snowdrops at St Mary's Temple Balsall

On Monday family chauffeuring meant I had about 90 minutes to spend in the Knowle area so I decided to drive the short distance to Temple Balsall and see if there were any snowdrops in the churchyard.

The original name for Temple Balsall was Belesale or Balisale taken from the name of the Anglo-Saxon landowner Bele or Bali and the old English word healh meaning a corner of land which led to the name Bele's healh which eventually became Belesale/Balisale.

In later centuries the Manor of Balsall was given by a Norman Knight, Roger de Mowbray, to the Knights Templar Order and by 1185 there was a manor with 67 tenants on 640 acres of arable land. Temple Balsall as it became known was the Preceptory or Headquarters of other Templar owned land in Warwickshire. By the early 14th century the King of France brought charges against the Order and templars were arrested in France and England including 5 from Temple Balsall. The order was suppressed and in March 1312 the Pope abolished the Order of the Knights Templar and transferred their properties to the Knights of St John (the Hospitallers) - a branch of this was the forerunner of the modern St John's Ambulance Brigade. Few records remain of the Hospitallers time at Temple Balsall but it is possible they built the church of St Mary.

By 1470 the Hospitallers had left the area and Katharine Parr (the 6th and last wife of Henry VIII) was given the manor of Temple Balsall by the king in 1543. Later Queen Elizabeth I gave the manor to her favourite Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Eventually the manor passed to Lady Anne Holbourn and her sister Lady Katherine Leveson of Trentham Hall, Staffs. The latter bought her sister's share in the estate. In her will she left instructions for an almshouse to be built at Temple Balsall and instructions to the minister to teach 20 of the poorest young boys in the parish. She died in 1674 and the first almswomen were admitted in 1679. The work continues to this day with the church, the Lady Katharine Leveson Church of England primary school and Lady Katharine Leveson Housing and Care.

I find it a very beautiful area with a special atmosphere - it is a place where time seems to have stood still and it is always peaceful and tranquil.

I made my way along the Bread Walk which runs between the almshouses and Temple Balsall House until I reached

St Mary's Church

A few photos of the corbel table, grotesques and gargoyles on the church.

There is a lovely Green Man carving on the church. The Green Man always seems to play hide and seek with me and I couldn't find him on Monday so this a photo taken by D some years ago when we did spot him.


The Templar or Old Hall

This is the most significant item to remain from the time of the Knights Templars. It formed their Preceptory (the senior court for Templars in Warwickshire). The original timber-framed building was built in the 13th century and it was restored by St Gilbert Scott in the 19th century. It still contains tumble aisle pillars supporting the original roof timbers. It is usually open on Sunday afternoons in the summer for tea and cakes.

St Mary's Church

Snowdrops were carpeting many areas of the churchyard - such a welcome harbinger of Spring.

Snowdrops (Galanthus species) are a symbol of hope and purity dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Alternative country names include Snow Piercer, Mary's Tapers, Snow Bells, Purification Flower, Fair Maids of February, Christ's Flower, Candlemas Bell and White Purification.

A legend tells that after the Fall of Man an angel visited Eve in the Garden of Eden to comfort her as she wept over the bare soil. It was snowing and the angel caught a snowflake and told it come to life. As soon as it touched the ground it flowered and later a circle of Snowdrops appeared where the angel had stood to bring hope to Eve.

Snowdrops may have been introduced into Britain in the late 15th century by Italian monks and the flowers are often found in the grounds of churches, monasteries and convents where they were grown for Candlemas Day.

In folklore it is believed to be unlucky to bring just one flower into the house. If you insist on bringing them indoors a bunch is safer and if you want to be married within the year you should never pick one until after Valentine's Day!

Under this old tree I found my first

winter aconites of the year and

a few Primroses were already beginning to flower. Winter Aconites are one of the first flowers to appear in the New Year and are often known as "New Year's 'gift'".

Part of the churchyard is a wildlife area and around 130 species of wild plants have been recorded.

If you go the end of the churchyard there is a lovely secret garden but to be honest it was a trifle muddy and I wasn't wearing my wellies so I didn't go that far on Monday.

I would have gone inside the church which has so much of interest but I had noticed that people in sombre clothing and a vicar were starting to arrive so I assumed a service possibly a funeral would soon be taking place so I decided it was time to leave.

Another view of the Templar Hall where I found

Hellebores in flower.

Timothy was very cold but eventually agreed to come out of my pocket to pose for a photo.

I didn't have time on Monday but D and I often continue along the Bread Walk past a stream and then either walk through a cemetery or take the path through woodland and continue round the corner where there is a small Warwickshire Wildlife Reserve.

I returned to Knowle where I saw this statue in the churchyard by the War Memorial.

I met up with D and before coming home we had a tomato, mozarella and pesto toasted sandwich and a hot chocolate in the tearoom at the Artisan Bakery - sorry no photo I had left my camera in the car boot!!

*D - archive photo of Green Man taken by my son some years ago

Rest of photos taken by me with the Panasonic Lumix FZ330 bridge camera

Reference: Temple Balsall website for history of Temple Balsall

Discovering the Folklore of Plants by Margaret Baker (Shire Publications)

Britain's Wild Flowers (A Treasury of Traditions, Superstitions, Remedies and Literature) by Rosamond Richardson (National Trust)

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2019

I've been taking part in the RSPB Garden Birdwatch for quite a few years now. I decided to watch the garden for an hour on Saturday morning as weather did not look good on the Sunday!

For once quite a few of the regulars did actually show up although not all of them!

I always get through several cups of tea and chocolate biscuits!

So what did I see?

Long-tailed Tit 2

The highlight was a Goldcrest x 1 which bathed in the garden pond

A few record shots heavily cropped!

Blue Tit 2

Great Tit 1

House Sparrow 3

Blackbird 2

Wood Pigeon 5

Robin 1

Dunnock 2

Goldfinch 2

Magpie 1

Final List

The only mammals seen were 2 Grey Squirrels - sorry about the murky photo - I really should have cleaned the kitchen window first!