Wednesday, 13 January 2016


In the northwest corner of Daventry lies Drayton and, with a spare hour available earlier today I decided to have a quick look around. It was formerly a separate settlement and, although it has been subsumed by the more vigorously-growing Daventry, it retains some of its old features.

Eyre and Jeffery's map, dating from 1791, shows it as a hamlet detached from Daventry, and even in modern references it is still described as a hamlet, but the open land once separating the two settlements is now fully built over. Locally it seems to be regarded as one of the more 'select' areas of the town.

Buildings in School Street, Drayton, Daventry
13 January, 2016

Several old buildings remain from early Victorian times or before, invariably built utilising Jurassic sandstone, no doubt from local quarries.

A brilliant sapphire sky was deceptive - it was a cold day!
Drayton, Daventry. 13 January, 2016

Some are well-constructed buildings, clearly in a good state of repair and doubtless much sought after. Fossils abound in the stonework, notably belemnites and bivalves.

Most modern daffodils are complex hybrids.
Drayton, Daventry. 13 January, 2016

A welcoming sight was daffodils en masse at the corner of Holden Grove. These modern daffodils are hybrids of species within the 'Ajax' group, such as our native Narcissus pseudonarcissus. They will attract the occasional early bumble bee but have limited wildlife value. However, there is no denying their cheerful appearance.

More significant was a plant of our native Spurge Laurel, Daphne laureola. It was in a garden but had almost certainly not been planted, and further investigation would doubtless have revealed more specimens.

The flowers of Spurge Laurel would easily be overlooked
but for their fragrance. Drayton, Daventry. 13 January, 201

The flowers seem to depend upon their fragrance rather than bright coloration to attract pollinators. An article appeared in The Guardian newspaper earlier this week from a correspondent surprised at having seen a bumble bee on the wing, but I replied pointing out that these winter-flowering shrubs must rely on visits from these equally early insects for cross pollination to occur.  Certainly they always seem to bear a good crop of their black - and highly poisonous - berries.

Rosemary bore a few flowers.
Drayton, Daventry. 13 January, 2016

Also in flower was Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis. Their Latin generic name of Rosa marinus - 'Rose of the Sea' - may seem odd, but when I have seen this species growing on hillsides in southern Europe, it has never been far from the sea. Their zygomorphic (the botanical term for bilaterally symmetrical) flowers are designed for insect pollination but, at this time of the year, a bit of luck is required.

A brilliant red form of Japanese Quince.
Drayton, Daventry. 13 January, 2016

Yet a third shrub in bloom was Japanese Quince, Chaenomeles japonica. A few days ago a friend gave us a pot of quince jelly, which she admitted came from this species rather than a true quince. I may be giving the impression that Drayton was a kaleidoscope of flowers but the truth is that these needed to be hunted out among the drab browns and greys.

A bank was covered in Yellow Archangel.
Drayton, Daventry. 13 January, 2016

The variegated form of Yellow Archangel, Lamiastrum galeobdolon, var argentatum, was tumbling down a bank. It is a very distinctive plant which is sometimes regarded as a distinct species, Galeobdolom argentatum. Whatever its true status, it is another of those thugs, pretty enough, introduced into many a garden by the unwary and cursed ever after.

As usual recently, nothing dramatic, but for me Drayton turned out to be rather interesting and goes down as one of those (countless) places I should return to this summer.

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