Today I thought I’d review my notes regarding Ashwicken Churchyard as I’ve been aiming to do a series of posts about the progress of our surveying there.
Norfolk Wildlife Trust have been organising a project to examine plantlife at some of the county’s wildlife sites and churchyards. This is the second and final year of the project, which gained support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and I’ve been involved as a volunteer (very amateur) surveyor.
I and three other women had our first look around the churchyard, which lies about 6 miles outside King’s Lynn, in February and we have been three more times since.
In March, we tried to work out if the daffodils growing in a large patch near a lime tree were wild or not and I’m afraid, although some of them seemed to fit the description in Simon Harrap’s “Wild Flowers”, we didn’t feel we could give a definite opinion. The Churchwarden said he hadn’t planted any and he didn’t know anyone who had.
The next month, it would have been good to find English bluebells, but we felt more confident with these being either Spanish or hybrids because of the more bell-like shape of the flowers and the fact the anthers were blue. Nearby, wild garlic was coming into flower.
We discovered a female mallard with a nest containing several eggs amongst the suckers of a lime tree. And, just after Easter, we found a patch of field wood rush – also known as Good Friday Grass.
For our most recent visit, at the end of May, we were joined for a second time by an expert botanist from NWT. She gave us tips on how to identify hairy tare – it has two seeds in its pods, ground ivy – it smells minty and you can make tea from it, and germander speedwell – it has two lines of white hairs on the stem and a bright blue flower with a tight white centre. If a buttercup’s sepals are pointing up, you are looking at the creeping type, and if the sepals are bending downwards, then they are the bulbous one. Cat’s ear, a dandelion type plant, is so named because of its pointy ear-like leaves, she explained.
At this time, we saw a second small sample of maidenhair spleenwort, a fern which is not common in Norfolk and which is dependent on churchyards, just against a wall of the building.The visit ended with lots of notes in my book!
The area set aside and left to grow after our first visit is now starting to show results. The classic churchyard plant, Lady’s Bedstraw, with its whorls of leaves, was, as is often the case. growing around a gravestone. It will have tiny, bright yellow, four-petalled flowers. Also coming through here were various grasses, sedge, germander speedwell and more buttercups.
In May, we watched a kestrel hovering and going down after food over some farmland near the church. We also thought there could well be a bees’ nest in the church porch because there were loads of bees flying around. Numerous bees were visiting a cotoneaster plant growing against the church wall, too. There was a cinnabar moth clinging to a leaf.
All Saints’ Church dates back to the 1300s, the oldest part being the west tower. It now stands amongst wide open fields and farmland; a really tranquil spot.
Churchyards often provide a haven for wild plants and animals because they have not been treated with chemicals or ploughed.