Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Northampton

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is one of Northampton's loveliest and most famous churches. My parents were married there. It is - or was - often called St Sepulchre's Church and from time to time a heated debate would break out in the 'Letters' page of the local paper regarding the usage of the word saint; could 'Saint Sepulchre's' possibly be right? Of course it can, since the words 'saint' and 'holy' are more or less synonymous.

Anyway, finding myself in Northampton with an hour to kill, and not withing to visit one more shop where a talentless singer was yelling or wailing a third-rate song (my word, you are grumpy today!) I decided to seek sanctuary in the church. It was locked! Instead I wandered around the churchyard, but was soon wondering, as I eyed dozens of discarded syringes, whether Marks & Spencer's might be a better bet after all.

Clematis vitalba scrambles across a wall near
Northampton town centre. 18 November, 2014
Approaching the church I had been agreeably surprised to find Traveller's Joy, Clematis vitalba, scrambling across a wall. 

The mine of the fly Phytomyza vitalbae on
 Clematis vitalba. 

Not only was it in flower but several leaves bore the mines of Phytomyza vitalbae. It is common but had probably not been recorded from the area before.

I therefore began to feel more optimistic as I began to stroll through the churchyard. In my childhood the grassy areas were kept under control by a flock of sheep. From time to time we would encounter the flock as it was being driven to or from the churchyard. Then only a little difficulty was created for the traffic, but nowadays...

Adjacent to a side entrance stood a lovely pine, with elegant branches spreading sideways to display the leaves, which were borne in groups of five.

The long, cylindrical cones confirmed that it was a Bhutan Pine, Pinus wallichiana. This tree, a native of the Himalayas, must be one of the most elegant of the genus.

I groaned as I realised that almost the whole of the churchyard was ringed by lime trees. Small bugs flitted from leaf to leaf.
Alnetoidea alneti on a lime leaf. St Sepulchre's
Churchyard, Northampton. 18 November, 2014

At 3 millimetres they were a challenge for my little camera but I managed to get a decent picture of one of the all-yellow insects. Under the microscope back home they proved to be Alnetoidea alneti, a very common member of a family called the Cicadellidae.

The gall of Taxomyia taxi. St Sepulchre's
churchyard, Northampton. 18 November, 2014

Another insect had been at work although I failed to find the culprit. Instead I found its gall on a yew tree. This distortion at the end of a branch is caused by Taxomyia taxi, one of the Cecidomyid flies.
These glands on the leaf petiole help to identify the tree as
a species of cherry

A few cherry trees were present. Many cherry species may be recognised by the thin and glossy outer bark, which peels off in strips round the trunk. In this case the bark was different but, as not all the leaves had fallen (and these were in the process of being shed), I could see that two glands were present where the leaf blade joined the petiole (leaf stem). This is diagnostic for cherries.

The pines, limes, yews and cherries made a good selection of trees, and a fastigiate ash was also present but parked cars (in the churchyard!) thwarted my attempts at a decent photo.
Grimmia pulvinata on a sandstone wall. St Sepulchre's
church. Northaampton. 18 November, 2014  

I turned my attention to the mosses on the church wall. The stone was a local Jurassic sandstone aand predictable species were present, most obviously the pretty but generally ignored Grimmia pulvinata. Known as the Grey-cushioned Grimmia it is generally abundant on walls, gravestones and so on.

I was just about to turn away when I noticed, just above head-height, something glistening.

It was a slime-mould and my first thought was Nostoc commune, but something wasn't quite right so I  am stumped. It is odd that in my previous blog, 'A dearth of fungi' I showed what I believe to be the fruiting stage of another slime-mould, Lycogala epidendrum. I should stress that the study of these organisms is a highly specialised pursuit and my identifications are speculative.

I could put off Christmas shopping no longer so it was back to the town where, to the strains of that festive favourite "Jingle tills", I made my way into the Grosvenor Centre.

Tony White:

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