Friday, 24 November 2017

Alders and churches

Surveys have revealed that whereas some 15-20 years ago people tended to do a big weekly shop at a favourite supermarket they now visit a variety of stores and purchase a smaller number of items at each. Certainly Chris and I fit in to this pattern; we will on occasion get in a 'big shop' but now give our benison to a wider range of retailers according to whichever ones happen to be convenient. I now make a habit of regularly walking into Daventry for exercise and generally return home with a few goods.
Today Chris was going to Byfield and she dropped me off at a handy point allowing me to walk into Daventry by a different route.
I approached the town from the south-east and followed a footpath parallel to South Way. The side of the footpath had been planted with a row of Grey Alders, Alnus incana. Its leaves were still green but acquiring an unhealthy-looking yellow shade in places as a prelude to being shed. The female cones from the current year were still intact but the male catkins for the coming season were already well developed. The trees provided welcome shelter from a very strong wind. 
Male and female he made them... Grey Alder, Daventry.
23 November, 2017

Yesterday I had been discussing with my friend Lynda the virtues of Laurustinus,Viburnum tinus. This evergreen shrub from southern Europe is greatly valued for its corymbs of flowers which are currently present and will be enjoyed over the next few weeks. I noted many specimens on my walk and a deep sniff detected what plant catalogues call a 'light fragrance' i.e. detectable by bloodhounds but few humans. It produces fertile seed and the occasional seedling will sometimes be found in a neglected park or shrubbery.
Laurustinus flowers in a Daventry garden. 23 November, 2017

I mention this shrub because today I also passed a garden with a hedge of Firethorn, Pyracantha coccinea, which was also bearing flowers. This was far more of a surprise. Firethorn berries are much enjoyed by birds and seedlings crop up quite frequently around our gardens, probably being bird-sown, but the flowers have no business to be around this late in the year.
...also available in red. Firethorn 'berries' in a Daventry garden.
23 November, 2017

Perhaps these two shrubs have a superficial resemblance to each other in that both are evergreen with white, actinomorphic (radially symmetrical) flowers, but the former is in the Rose Family, Rosaceae whilst the latter is in the Adoxaceae. Incidentally most botany or gardening books will state that Laurustinus is in the Honeysuckle Family, Caprifoliaceae, as its transfer to the Adoxaceae has been fairly recent. 

Firethorn in flower, Inlands Rise, Daventry.
23 November, 2017
Speaking of honeysuckle, in several of the gardens I passed what appeared to be Henry's Honeysuckle, Lonicera henryi, in flower. This climber, from western China, has become very popular in recent years being tough, evergreen and floriferous but its main season of flowering is normally June or July. Is it yet another species producing an extra crop of very late blooms?
A honeysuckle (Lonicera henryi?) flowering in another Daventry garden.
23 November, 2017

I plodded on and was pleased to see, some thirty yards ahead, a mass of Sowbread, Cyclamen hederifolium, on a bank. But my delight was short-lived; as I got a little closer I could see that in fact it was a tangle of Yellow Archangel, Lamiastrum galeobdolon, a member of the Mint Family. The taxon present was the subspecies, argentatum. The foliage is not unlike that of Sowbread but even at a distance I ought not to have been fooled. In fact this subspecies is quite an interesting plant. It appears to be unknown in the wild and presumable arose as a garden cultivar. All samples examined appear to have identical DNA so it seems that what we have is one widespread, extremely vigorous clone.
Yellow Archangel masquerading as Sowbread. South Way, Daventry.
23 November, 2017
I was now approaching the town centre having followed a rather zig-zag route that took me past Daventry's Holy Cross Church. It always strikes me as a rather odd structure. The building was completed in the second half of the eighteenth century and is in a sort of classical style but, presumably as an afterthought, a brown traffic cone has been stuck on what could have been a nicely proportioned tower.
Holy Cross Church, Daventry. 23 November, 2017
The main structure makes use of local ironstone and, to be fair, probably looked smart at completion but since then, despite repairs in 2013, a combination of graffiti and badly weathering masonry means that parts of the church walls look quite shabby, decrepit even. Inside there is an attractive Venetian window (I always look at the stained glass) and Henry Willis's organ is much admired.
Enough! I've delayed the highlight of the day for too long.
People speak of The Parthenon, the Sistine Chapel, the temple complex of Ankgor Wat. All pale into insignificance before the majesty and splendour of Tesco's, Daventry. I gathered a few comestibles, made my offering to the priestess at the High Altar (£14.81) and thus spiritually refreshed I set off for home and temporal refreshment in the form of coffee. 

Tony  White  E-mail:  

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