A Floral Dance



St Lawrence Church at Sandhurst

One of the lovely things about the UK is the number of old churches that still exist at the heart of many communities.  And, now that we are experiencing the longest heatwave since 1976, they are literally and metaphorically the coolest places to visit.

Of course, congregations are shrinking and ageing.  Many people, today either don’t go to church at all, or, they go to the more vibrant ‘evangelical’ churches, of which there are many.

However, there is something quintessentially English about a country village church.  I have written previously about the Ivy Church at Ampney St Mary.

Congregations have an uphill struggle to maintain and repair these old buildings and are constantly putting on events to raise the necessary funds.  It is really hard work for small communities.  And, Sandhurst is a small village; but it has some rare treasures and a wealth of history within the grounds of its beautiful church.  So, this week it was a pleasure to support them by visiting St Lawrence Church For their flower festival. 

The festival was entitled, “Strictly Music and Dance”.  All the floral displays were based on the theme.  There was an amazing variety of music and dance styles represented from the old playground song, ‘Oranges and Lemons’ to Stravinsky’s ‘Firebird’.

There has been a church on this site since the time of Henry 1st (1100-1135), when it belonged to St Oswald’s Priory in Gloucester.  The present church is partly 14th century but was mainly rebuilt in 1858.  It has some impressive features.

Outside there is a lychgate which was decorated with flowers, then at the entrance to the church the porch was surrounded by them.  Inside the porch was a magnificent display of sunflowers.  Once inside the door there is a truly remarkable baptismal font made of lead.  It is thought to have been made around 1135 near Bristol, out of lead mined in the Mendip hills.  It is beautifully engraved with scrolls and figures.  My favourite was the figure of Jesus.  Apparently, there are 6 fonts of this type in Gloucestershire so I must find the other 5.  It is exquisite.  This font was surrounded by flowers ‘A La Ronde’ to remind us of country dancing round the maypole on a village green.

There is also an antique carved oak pulpit from the time of King James 1st (1603-1625) which was surrounded by a sparkling floral display showing the glitz and glamour of Ballroom dancing.

One of the features of any old church is the stained glass and this little church has some beautiful examples.  But for me the most moving were a fairly recent one to commemorate the local men who died in WW1, and one to honour a young man from the village, Frederick Watts, who died in WW2.  I was very moved to meet an elderly lady at the church who knew this young man.  She told me that he was her brother’s playmate from childhood and she remembered him well.

It was quite difficult taking photos because of the backlight from the stained-glass windows but I hope you enjoy those I managed to take:


All of a Flutter with Real Confetti

confetti fields 17

We took a drive out on Friday to a lovely part of the Cotswolds, the village of Wick near Pershore. I was keen to see the fields of Delphiniums at Wick while the weather was good.
Acres of delphiniums are grown by Charles Hudson on the Wyke manor Estate, which are dried and sold as natural confetti for the Real Confetti Company. Apparently delphiniums, apart from growing in a range of vibrant colours, keep their colour indefinitely once they are dried, while rose petals go brown, carnations go black and marigolds shrivel up. This makes delphiniums perfect for confetti. Being totally natural, they biodegrade and don’t litter up churchyards and wedding venues, many of which have banned paper confetti for this reason.  I was told that when Prince Charles and Camilla came out from their wedding the young royals, William, Harry, Zara and others threw real confetti from Wick over the happy couple.
The village of Wick is a delight to behold. It is really ancient and retains every bit of its character. It must be the quintessential English village with its old church, thatched cottages and beautiful manor house.
The original manor was called Wyke Manor, using the ancient spelling, and it had a very long and illustrious history. It was owned by John Nevill, 3rd Lord Latimer, involved in the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1538. Upon his death in 1543, he willed the manor to his widow Catherine Parr. Catherine later married King Henry VIII (28 June 1491 – 28 January 1547) as his sixth and last wife in July of 1543. She was 31 years old and he was 52. The marriage didn’t last long as Henry died in 1547 so Catherine outlived him. A small piece of Catherine has returned to the Manor recently as a lock of her hair came up for auction. The hair is mounted in an oval frame on ink-inscribed paper which states “Hair of Queen Catherine Parr, Last Consort of Henry, the night she died September 5th 1548 was in the Chapel of Sudeley Castle”. The current owner of the manor, Charles Hudson, paid £2,160 for the hair, in order to return it to the manor.
Catherine Parr's Hair
After Catherine died, the estate passed to Anthony Babington, who was later executed for treason after plotting to kill Queen Elizabeth I! It then passed to Sir Walter Raleigh, who was also executed.
The Hudson family have owned the Wyke manor Estate since the 1760s and the current owner is Charles Hudson and his wife, the writer Cressida Connolly. I was fascinated to learn that Cressida is an authority on Ladybird Books, which I have always rated highly.

I have recently been told that the house which is now on the Wyke Manor Estate was partially rebuilt in the 1920s in the Elizabethan style.  I am grateful to Paul, a resident of Wick, for this update.

The people of Wick that I met were absolutely lovely and pointed me in the direction of the shop at the back of the manor house. This is not like any shop I have ever seen before. It is literally a part of the stable block and there are children’s bikes scattered all over the yard. Inside the ‘shop’ a lovely young lady, who must have the best job and workplace in the world, was boxing up exquisite dried petals into pretty boxes. Along one wall is a vast array of open boxes each containing different coloured dried petals. The smell and colour and atmosphere is hypnotic. I felt as if I had walked into a fairytale. Honestly, if you get the chance you just have to go along and experience it.
Well I spent so long soaking up the atmosphere that it was getting decidedly overcast by the time I headed off to the actual confetti fields. But I rushed to get as many photos as I could before the light failed, the heavens opened and I got soaked! It was definitely worth it though. Enjoy my photos.

Lily of the Valley

May has got to be one of the most beautiful times of the year here in the Cotswolds.  In my garden at the moment there is such a variety of blossom.  We have several varieties of apple, two kinds of pear, a cherry tree and a quince all covered in blossom.  The hellebores are almost over but there are still a few tulips and primroses.  The blue bush, whose name I can never remember, is covered in flowers and the orange azalea is amazing.  But the piece de resistance has got to be the Lily of the Valley.  I did not plant these, they were already naturalised when we moved in ~ but they are superb.  They are prolific under my pear trees.  The perfume that surrounds them is just beautiful.  There are so many in our garden that I picked a couple of bunches on Sunday.  I brought one indoors where the perfume fills the room.  I gave the other bunch to a lovely local lady when I took her some rhubarb I had just picked.  The rhubarb is another thing that seems to love our soil as it grows really well.  Unfortunately my husband is not allowed to eat it now that he is on dialysis so I tend to give it away.

Lily of the Valley is a native of Britain. The 16th century Gerard’s Herbal decries it as “growing on hampstead Heath, four miles from London, in great abundance@”  I must remember to check if it still grows there.   It used to be a tradition here to give bunches of Lily of the Valley on May 1st.  It still is in France I believe, where the flowers are called Muguet.

In 1851 Queen Victoria commissioned a special painting to commemorate 1st May.  It was a very special year for her as it was Prince Arthur’s first birthday, the 82nd birthday of the Duke of Wellington who was the Prince’s grandfather, and the opening day of the Great Exhibition.  Of course Lily of the Valley featured prominently in the painting with the Duke of Wellington presenting a posy to the Queen, Prince Albert and the young prince Arthur.  The painting was completed by Franz Xaver Winterhalter and is in the style of the adoration of the Magi which seems rather irreverent to me but was a sign of the times I guess.

Queen Victoria wearing the George III Tiara (T...