Friday, 5 December 2014

An hour to kill

Chris and I paid a visit to Woodford Halse for a much-needed trip to the hairdressers. I was first to be dealt with, just having a 'Number 4' but Chris was having the full works so I had well over an hour to kill.

With my shorn locks leaving me feeling chilly I turned up my collar and set off for the church of St Mary the Virgin, Woodford Halse. There, I've said it! Local belief is that "Woodford Halse" and "virgin" never appear in the same sentence. How justified that is, I've no idea.
The church of St Mary the Virgin, Woodford Halse.
5 December, 2014

The rather simple church is typical of the region, being built using a local Jurassic sandstone, perhaps from the quarry at nearby West Farndon. The historian John Bridges, in his book on the "History and antiquities of the County of Northampton" (1791) refers to Farndon producing 'a rock of serviceable stone for building or pavements'. There was also a quarry at Byfield, barely two miles away, but this produced a distinctive, darker sandstone.

Grassy tussocks are a feature of the churchyard to
the rear. 5 December, 2014

The churchyard is interesting. The area around the main entrance is kept neat and tidy but for a very large expanse to the rear the condition is in state of benign neglect, with headstones leaning in a variety of angles. This rather wild area is splendid for wildlife although it has to be said that on a chilly December day it was not glaringly obvious.

The lichen Caloplaca virescens is one of the
 crustose species present on the headstones.
Woodford Halse, 5 Decemberf, 2014

In these cold, dark days the gravestone lichens often provide an element of interest but there was little variation in the stone being used and consequently there was only a limited range of lichens to be seen. (but an expert would have detected far more). Examples of the yellow Caloplaca species were present, with Caloplaca flavescens being particularly common. Indeed it is very common across most of England but becomes relatively scarce from the middle of Scotland northwards.

Perhaps most of us take these building stones for granted but elsewhere in the village I found examples of badly chosen material. The chemical erosion of this sand-stone block is very pronounced and, were it in the wall of my house I would be a tad worried, if not for me, certainly for my grandchildren.

Very few fossils were noted and, in short, the building materials were of very limited interest. A bench-mark had been carved into stone adjacent to the church and I assumed that a check of the local Ordnance Survey map would give me a spot height for this. I was wrong (although a large-scale map would probably provide a figure).

I kept glancing at my watch. The cold was getting through to me and there was little to get excited about. And then I chanced upon this little patch of...what?

It was situated on the exposed top of a wall, and that was the odd thing. Had it been on the underside of a plant leaf I would have accepted it as a cluster of insect eggs of, probably, a butterfly or moth. But here, on a bare wall? The eggs - for that is what they undoubtedly were - measured only about 0.5 mm across. A close-up is of interest but still leaves me puzzled. Between the eggs are slight traces of leaf venation so it is probably a fragment of plant material that has simply fluttered down and come to rest on the wall.

A little further along the same wall I once again came across a 'slime-mould' (see blog for 19 November). But I'm starting to have my doubts; is it some other organism? IF it is a slime-mould, my money is on Nostoc communeWhatever it is, it always seems to be on, or near to, a patch of moss. I have found other pictures of this by trawling the internet, but those posting the images have carefully avoided offering a name. The jelly-lichen, Collema auriforme is another possibility, and yet, and yet...

In a sheltered border a clump of Serbian Bellflower, Campanula poscharskyana was coping well with the cold, but I wasn't, so I began to retrace my steps.

It was good to get into the car, bang on the heater, and begin to thaw out.

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