Friday, 5 September 2014

Off to church

I went into Daventry earlier today with the intention of going to church. I walked, as Chris had taken the car to Stratford upon Avon for some retail therapy and I needed the exercise. 

The sun was reluctant to show its face but conditions were mild and the walk was pleasant. 

Pyracantha (Firethorn) with the mines of
Phyllonorycter leucographella.
Daventry, 5 September, 2014

In several places, as I strolled past gardens, I saw Firethorn shrubs with their leaves carrying the distinctive blister mine of the Firethorn Leaf Moth, Phyllonorycter leucographella. It is so common today that it barely merits a mention.

Ash leaflets bore the familiar puckered blister on the midrib, the work of a fly, Dasineura fraxini. As with the previous case, little damage seems to be done to the host.

Entertained by these trivia I pressed on and, some 15 minutes after setting out I was at Daventry's Holy Cross church. As a resolute atheist my destination may seem odd, but I am fond of churches, both for their aura of peace and for their architecture. I also enjoy strolling around churchyards - 'God's little acre' - so often an oasis in an otherwise wildlife-hostile habitat.

From the town's main street I have always regarded this church as rather ugly, with an unsatisfactory hybrid of tower and spire. I went round to the rear and, whilst not completely altering my view, felt a little more kindly disposed. Constructed from warm golden Jurassic sandstone it sat comfortably in the landscape.

Ashlar masonry, Holy Cross Church, Daventry.
5 September, 2014

The blocks of stone were square-cut and closely fitted with very little mortar. This type of masonry, known as ashlar, always creates a pleasing effect, but not all was well.

Serious erosion was eating into some blocks of masonry

Some of the sandstone blocks were of indifferent - indeed, poor - quality and were eroding badly. In some cases mortar had been smoothed over the concave areas of wear and the result was most unattractive.

Ridges of iron oxide (probably limonite, but I am not a geologist) stood out in places. Quite often these ridges form concentric layers in a roughly rectangular form, when they are known as box stone. 

Belemnites, an ancient relative of squids.
Holy Cross Church, Daventry. 5 September, 2014

In some of the blocks fossils abounded, with belemnites being the most obvious. Most of the fossils were badly broken; an experienced palaeontologist could probably have identified much of the material but I could only look, and imagine the ancient sea bed on which these remains had accumulated. 

Someone, with remarkable prescience, had already suitably engraved the church wall. I will forgive the spelling error - in this context the correct spelling is surely 'woz'. 

Next was the churchyard. It will have to await further investigation as today was unremittingly sunless and insect sighting were few. I didn't linger. A visit to the market, from which I came away empty-handed and then a slightly less sprightly walk home and it was back to the job of clearing away more  'Leylandii'.


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