Paper Flowers

As you walk through the archway into the chapel of St Betram, in the Church of the Holy Cross, IIam in Staffordshire, you notice these.

 

They are Maidens’ Garlands and relatively few churches in England are thought to have surviving examples. It’s thought they may have been used during the funeral service of an unmarried woman, but there is evidence in other parts of the country that they may have been made for young men too.  Further information can be found in this article in the Birmingham Post a few years ago, but most importantly there is the work undertaken by Rosie Morris who as a child saw garlands hanging from hooks in her church in Shropshire and wondered what they were. Years later having been unable to find much information on them, decided to make them the subject of her dissertation and later Phd. Rosie’s website on Maidens’ Garlands is here.

Not only do I think the garlands and the stories attached to them are of interest, I also really like the idea that Rosie’s curiosity for an object she saw as a child led to her doing such great work to research and share this tradition.

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Tree following: White Heat

“No, I can’t come out with you, I’m supposed to be working”. “You know you want to… I’m only going to be around for the next few days and then I don’t know when I’ll be back in Lichfield again”. “Oh, go on then…..”

Yes, my old friend summer is back in town, and so I went to see how my tree that I follow on the path from Leomansley Wood to Pipe Green is getting on. To be honest I’m now following pretty much the whole path, so the tree doesn’t get that much of a look in these days. I’m sure it’ll come in to its own as the seasons progress though!

It was a delight for most of the senses.  Birdsong and drumming woodpeckers, butterflies and an abundance of mostly white flowers along the floor and hedgerows, the warmth of the sun, the cool of the breeze and the shade of the trees and of course the scent of early summer in the air. Taste is the only one that eluded me on my walk (although I’m sure there were probably some wild goodies I could have tried if I was both more knowledgeable and brave about these things). I think my tea & cake when I got home might just about count though.

Tree following: Mayday

It took a bit of effort to drag myself out into the murky, wet evening. Glad I made the effort though. Before I’d even got to the woods, I had a treat when a heron swooped down onto a roof and remained there for a few moments before flying off in the direction of Waitrose. I’ve spotted a heron a couple of times near the old mill pool over there. On twitter, Brownhills Bob & someone from the Pipe Green Trust thought he may have been heading to a heronry at Aldershawe.

Another few steps and I found myself passing a slightly wonky fairyring of mushrooms. I didn’t get too near. I’ve read what happens to mortals who do…..

Once in the woods, the trees, plants and hedgerows glistened, but with drops of recent rainfall, rather than may dew.

I wanted to measure my tree, to get an idea of how old it was. It soon became apparent that this was no task to undertake alone. The people in the flats overlooking the lane, and this robin that turned up to watch, probably wondered what on earth I was doing.

Happily, I managed to enlist someone’s help and we discovered that the trunk measured about 3.2m which could mean that it is anything from around 210 years old to around 130 years old. According to the Royal Forestry Society, a tree could grow between 1.5cm & 2.5cm per year, depending on things like location, soil quality.  So I’m going to read up on Mitchell’s Rule and then maybe I’ll have another go at estimating the age!

Tree measuring task completed, I headed back down the lane and met a couple out for a walk. They didn’t seem to mind the weather, in fact they thought it was lovely…….

 

 

Tree following: Tree Routes

As far I understand it, the path running past Christ Church was at one point the old Walsall Rd, ‘realigned under an Act of 1832 with the new Queen Street and Walsall Road bypassing the route along Lower Sandford Street and what was later called Christchurch Lane. That lane takes its name from the church opened in 1847, and by then it had been continued south-west from the church to the new Walsall road, the old line from Lower Sandford Street having been turned into a drive for Beacon Place’.(1)

The path is surrounded by trees that I believe were planted in the mid-19th century by the Hinckleys of Beacon Place, the estate that occupied most of what is now Beacon Park between 1800-ish and 1964, when the house was demolished.

So that’s a bit of historical scene setting, now what about the tree!

There’s one along this path in particular that seems to attract attention. Several people have commented on it in the past. I even heard a girl refer to it as ‘The Skeleton Tree’! I’m not even sure what kind of tree this is but how could I resist following it?!

How do holes like this form in a tree? As usual, on nature matters I can’t offer any upfront answers (though rest assured I shall be trying to find out, part of the reason I’m doing this is to learn things!) but I can give you a peep into the hole nearest to the ground.


And a close up of the one at the top…….


Nearby, the snowdrops are looking very shabby now.

I love to see these little flowers at the end of the winter, but I have to confess I’m even happier when I see these…

Not quite a host, but enough to signal that spring has arrived in this part of Lichfield! The wild garlic has also made an appearance. The aroma from the leaves is incredible, I’m sorry I can’t share it. No pretty white flowers yet though, let’s see what April brings for the Old Walsall Road!

Talking of Walsall, I’ve just found out that the brilliant & enthusiatic Morgan, a Walsall Countryside Ranger has started a Walsall Wildlife blog. She’s one of the most knowledgable people I know about nature and I’ve learnt loads from her (although clearly this is very much an ongoing education 😉 ). I really recommend that you check out this and the Walsall Wildlife flickrstream.  I bet Morgan even knows how those holes in the trees got there……!

Sources:

(1)’Lichfield: The 19th century’, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield (1990), pp. 24-32. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=42338  Date accessed: 25 March 2012.

 

Tree Following: Yellow

This week I went along to Leomansley Woods to do my first bit of tree following. It probably sounds ridiculous but choosing one tree wasn’t that easy. You can’t see the tree for the woods or something I suppose. In the end I decided on this tree, at the edge of the wood.

The surrounding debris & hazy memories of last year lead me to believe this is an Oak.

Jumbled branches

 

The trunk. I'll take a tape measure next time to get some clue to the tree's age?

 

Lichen

 

Is this a coaltit getting in on the act?

While I was there, I thought following the entrance to the woods, the woodland floor and the hedgerows running alongside the lane might be nice too.

The entrance to the woods. The path running alongside forms part of The Darwin Walk and will take you to Pipe Green

Judging by the green shoots, it won’t be long before the woods are covered in bluebells. I think though, the colour of March is going to be yellow.

Lesser celandine?

 

Even I know that these are daffodils!

 

I don't know these though - they were growing in the hedgerow.

As a bit of a disclaimer (though if you read the captions above it hardly needs to be said!), I don’t know that much about trees & plants. I can’t tell my ash from my elder. One of the reasons I want to do this, is because it’ll be a good opportunity to learn more. For example, I now know what Lesser Celandine is, and that as one of the first flowers of the year, it is known as Spring Messenger. Slightly less picturesque is one of its alternative names – Pilewort.

I’ve already had some great input from a couple of people, on where to find interesting trees in our area. There could well be a ‘Tree Hunting’ spin off! So a big thanks to Roger and Pat for this – I shall be keeping my eyes open!

Also, over to the right are some links to people who actually know what they are talking about when it comes to flora and fauna, and they take some fabulous photographs to prove it! I definitely recommend taking a look!