Thursday, 21 February 2013

Village Walls

Most Northamptonshire settlements make use of local stone for many walls and other structures; Byfield is no exception and on a raw day, with a biting easterly wind, I avoided the open countryside and stuck to the village.

Limonite-streaked sandstone in a
Byfield wall. 21 February, 2013

Invariably the material used hereabouts is sandstone of Jurassic age, often streaked with iron oxide in the form of limonite. For most walls the stone is roughly dressed with a hammer and in this form is known as rubblestone. It may be more carefully dressed and even, as in the case of Byfield Manor House, given a smooth surface and, when closely jointed with little mortar, it is known as ashlar. (A better photograph of this fine building is featured in Diana Sutherland;'s excellent book, "Northamptonshire Stone".)

A neatly-dressed wall in Church
 Street, Byfield
Ashlar work,
The Manor House at Byfield

Fossils are common although few are undamaged. Belemnites are among the most frequent but their cephalopod relatives, ammonites, are only occasionally found: the only example I could find was on the wall of Kings Farthing, in Banbury Lane. 

Belemnite in wall.
Byfield, 21 February, 2013
Ammonite in the wall of Kings Farthing, Byfield
Aubretia in flower, Byfield. 18 February, 2013
The very sticky web of Amaurobius similis
Byfield.  21 February 2013
Walls are home to many organisms. Plants enjoy the limy mortar, particularly in rubblestone walls and Aubretia (Aubrieta deltoides) is already in flower. (My blog for 17 December, "Wall Plants", featured more of these.) Also occupying these crevices are spiders, with the grey web of Amaurobius similis being a familiar sight.
Some building stone in Byfield consists of
little but fossils

I am refraining from mentioning mosses and lichens, these deserving many blogs to themselves - from an expert.

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