Thursday, 19 November 2015


This pretty village, with no school, no village shop, and no pub, is really no more than a hamlet, although it does boast a church. I'd not visited Dodford, situated just off the A45 near Weedon, for about eight years so Chris dropped me off on a dull but dry morning for a stroll around.

Dodford church, lichen encrustations obvious even at
a distance. 19 November, 2015
The church of St Mary the Virgin is rather small but probably quite adequate in these increasingly irreligious times. It was locked, telling us yet more about these times. The building is Grade 1 listed, and parts of it date back to the 12th Century, though it could be older. Dodford was mentioned, as Doddanford (the ford on the land of a man called Dodda), in a document dating from 944, but the church won't be quite that old.

Giant Redwood, but not yet the giant it may
 become. St Mary the Virgin church, Dodford.

It was dwarfed by a lofty redwood, the form of the cones showing that it was a Giant Redwood, Sequoiadendron giganteum. Despite backing up against the church wall my camera would not take in its full height, yet it may only be half grown. Although the church may be about nine hundred years old the tree could have been planted barely a century ago.

The distinctive foliage and cones of Giant Redwood.
Churchyard of St Mary the Virgin, Dodford.
 19 November, 2015

The leaves were flattened against the twigs (appressed) and the mature female cones were ovoid. These features are diagnostic for the species.


The next biggest tree was a largely-dead sycamore, sprouting a fine bracket fungus. I was unable to reach it for a close look but it appeared to be a specimen of Dryad's Saddle, Polyporus squamosus. It is this parasite which is almost certainly responsible for the moribund state of its host. 

Despite the late date the village gardens were still full of colour with dahlias and other tender perennials still in bloom. A couple of holly lookalikes also caught the eye.

Skimmia, looking like a smooth-leaved holly.
Dodford, Northants. 19 November, 2015
The first, with holly-like berries but smooth leaves, was a skimmia, Skimmia japonica to be precise. Most skimmias are dioecious, so a male and a female plant are required if berries are to be produced, but with the variety 'reevesiana', which is sometimes regarded as a true species, this problem does not exist.

Osmanthus, looking like a berry-free holly.
Dodford, Northants. 19 November, 2015

A few feet away grew Osmanthus delavayi. Here we have no berries but rather holly-like leaves. The flowers are fragrant but when I have grown it the scent has not been obvious. Osmanthus fragrans has, as the name suggests, a far sweeter scent.

Dodford may be but a hamlet, with only the old school house suggesting livelier times, but it is convenient for the M1 and Northampton, so my guess is that house prices are high. It is really only a dormitory village and sadly the chances of a pub or a shop ever opening there are zilch. So, expensive it may be, but it is not everyone's cup of tea. I saw not a soul in the hour or so that I spent there.

Hogweed still in flower. Dodford, Northants
19 November, 2015

Departing the village I noted that Hogweed, Heracleum sphondylium, was still flowering vigorously but on this dull, chilly morning no insects were paying a visit. 
The distinctive leaf mines of Phytomyza spondylium.
Dodford, 19 November, 2015

But visitors there had been, albeit unwanted ones. Phytomyza spondylii had mined the lower leaves to leave its characteristic patterning with probably no real harm done.

The sky had taken on a bruised appearance, suggesting that rain was imminent but just as I reached the A45 a bus came into view and I thus avoided what would have been a chilly wait. Minutes later and I was dropped off in Daventry town centre just as rain began to fall. I managed the mile or so home before getting too wet but was glad to peel off a very damp coat.

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