A Microscopic World At The Church


The morning passed quickly and amicably in the sunshine at Ashwicken Churchyard this morning as we examined – often in minute detail -the latest crop of wildflowers.

Sitting or kneeling on the grass and checking each plant against the description given in our books, often with a magnifying lens, we opened up a microscopic world. Once at ground level, we began to spot more tiny blooms or seedheads. So much so easily missed if you were just walking by; a lot of wildflowers are really tiny.

The lady’s bedstraw, discovered in the set-aside section, is now starting to produce its little four-petalled flowers and also seems to be spreading.

Lady’s bedstraw is coming into flower.

Lady’s bedstraw is a common churchyard plant. Simon Harrap in his book, states it is honey scented when fresh and smells of newly-mown hay when dry. Formerly thought to discourage fleas, he says it was incorporated into straw mattresses, particularly for ladies about to give birth.

Also in the area left to grow long through summer, we spotted the deep purple flowers of self-heal. Here, too among the various grasses, were creeping buttercup, common sorrel, smooth hawksbeard and lesser trefoil.

The self-heal is starting to flower.

Today, after what’s seemed a long wait – we saw it during our first site visit in February – we were able to confirm the sedum forming a cover on several  graves, was white stonecrop.

White stonecrop.

We discovered the striking procumbent yellow sorrel growing in the corner of one grave. Last year, I found its relative, pink sorrel, a very attractive plant, in Reffley Spring Wood.

And we were pleased to see three or four field forget-me-nots next to the path leading to the church.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust, who are over-seeing our efforts, have given us a plan of the churchyard and divided it into four sections. Section B on the south side includes the area left to grow during the summer. There were just two of us surveyors today, so we found plenty to occupy us! It was also one of the warmest days of the year – temperatures up to 30⁰C I believe – and also the day with the most hours of daylight.

This time, the bees had switched from the cotoneaster to the big lime trees, which are currently in flower. And there was no sign of any around the porch. There were several hoverflies. A cinnabar moth – I saw two at one stage – was flying about. It did seem to spend quite a bit of time in the restricted area.

I decided to take some photos of the views seen from various parts of the churchyard to illustrate why All Saints’ is known as the “Church in the Fields”.

A robin kept watch on proceedings, landing on gravestones every once in a while. There was plenty of birdsong, including a skylark around dinner time.




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