According to the Meteorological Office, in the UK summer officially began on 1 June. They define the season as spanning June, July and August. However, astronomically the start of summer may be defined as commencing at the solstice, the time of maximal insolation, often identified with the 21st day of June. Insolation refers to the maximum amount of electromagnetic radiation received from the sun. This is averaged out over a period of time and this date is a mean taken from that high band. 21st June also happens to be the summer solstice, and the longest day. It is the day when those who wish to celebrate these things, gather at Stonehenge and other mystical places at dawn and have a party. Not this year though, Stonehenge, along with much of the rest of tourist UK is closed.
As I write this blog, more restrictions are being eased and recent weekends have seen crowded beaches and beauty spots. We can now meet with up to six friends outside, maintaining social distancing rules of course. We are cautious about this latest pronouncement, as there is some disagreement among the scientists about the wisdom of this move. Some are saying it is too soon, and the message from the Government has also changed. They are now “listening” to the scientists rather than “following the science”. We still can’t meet friends in coffee shops, or enjoy meals out, as pubs, cafes and restaurants are still closed, though many are providing a take-away service. Social distancing rules are still being enforced though I note that there are calls for these to be relaxed. Garden Centres are now open and other shops have been given permission to start trading again, albeit with strict entrance restrictions.
Nevertheless, the weather is warmer, we are seeing more changes in the fields and hedgerows around us. The bright yellow of Oil Seed Rape has gone, the bluebells, so indicative of spring colour have shrivelled and died, and our spring garden flowers now hang dead on stalks, waiting to be deadheaded. The bright colours in the garden now are our roses which are a glorious sight. As we walk and cycle around the lanes, enjoying the summer sunshine, the wild poppies are in full bloom, their blazing red providing a brilliant splash of colour to the verges and fields.
Four Rose images. Top left is Rosa Graham Thomas, which I brought from my Mother’s garden after she passed away. It was her favourite rose.
Wild Poppies in the paddock between us and next door.
Finally in the garden, the wild life pond, which has been under construction since last autumn is finally completed. There was much gnashing of teeth because I could not get the plants I wanted for the scheme I had devised for the edge of the pond. I settled for what I had left in my greenhouse, with a promise to myself to re-plant when the opportunity arises. The pond does however need a few more aquatic plants around the the side.
Images of our front garden project.
My “Local Churches” photographic project is almost completed (see previous lockdown blogs for more details). However, there is one place I have omitted so far, because it is an Abbey, not a church, subtle difference but please bear with me. I have left this one until last because it is by far the oldest of our local churches and has the most interesting history of any of those I have featured.
Wymondham Abbey (pronounced Windam) is the parish church for our local town but it started life as a Benedictine Priory when it was established in 1107 by William d’Aubigny, butler to King Henry I. William was a prominent Norfolk landowner, with estates in Wymondham and nearby New Buckenham although you have to wonder how he came by this wealth, as his family originated from St. Martin d’Aubigny, in Normandy, France. The Abbey was originally built as a dependency of the monastery of St Albans, being home to only 12 Benedictine monks. Over the next 350 years the Abbey grew in wealth and influence and in 1448, following a successful petition to the King, permission was granted giving the Priory the right to become an Abbey, independent of the St Albans establishment.
The Accession of King Henry VIII to the throne of England in 1508 saw the Dissolution of the Monasteries and brought about the closure of Wymondham Abbey, which was surrendered to the King in 1538. The years following the Dissolution saw the gradual demolition of the monastic buildings for re-use of the stone, leaving only a church building approximately half of its former size. Restoration and repairs to the remaining parts of the church were carried out under Queen Elizabeth I’s reign following her visit in 1573.
The most prominent feature of Wymondham Abbey is the twin towers, which stand out for miles as a distinct local landmark. Inside there is a gilded altar screen, which serves as a war memorial to the fallen of the first world war and was dedicated in 1921, although not completely finished until 1934.
The twin towers of Wymondham Abbey viewed from one of the routes into town.
In 1174, the monastery founder’s son, also called William d’Aubigny, established a chapel in the town dedicated to St Thomas Becket , the murdered Archbishop of Canterbury, which was served by two monks from the priory. The current chapel was built in the 1400’s and over the years has served the town as a school, a lock up for prisoners on remand, and a public hall. Until 2008 it was the home of the town’s library and now serves as the Wymondham Arts Centre. The structure of the building is in a parlous state however, and in desperate need of repair.
Left: Beckets Chapel with the Wymondham Town sign in front. Right. Chapel Entrance
Nearby is the Green Dragon pub, reputed to be the oldest in Norfolk. It has been serving ale since 1371, very handy for the monks at Beckets Chapel and the Abbey! Today, when it is open, it is a wonderful community hub, and has won many local and regional awards for its food, beer and community spirit. It even gets a few mentions in “Tombland” the historical novel by CJ Samson which is set in Norwich.
The Green Dragon Pub
We have taken advantage of the quieter roads to ride out a little further from home and enjoyed rides of around 15 – 20 miles around the lanes and nearby villages. It has been good to see more folk out cycling and walking.
Seen on our travels. Left: Village Pond at Wramplingham; Right: Wildlife pond in a garden at Deopham.
Wild flowers in the verge
We have also been devoting more time to our part of the allotment we share with a friend. This year, because of lockdown, we have had more time to tend to our plot and can look forward to harvests of red and salad onions very soon and broad beans. Later in the year, parsnips, carrots, beetroot, sweetcorn, broccoli and squashes of various shapes and sizes will hopefully be ready for us. As a bonus for us it is also weed free, as is our garden, though that may change now we have had some rain.
Finally, a first for me, I have been asked to do a presentation on our recent travels to Australia and New Zealand for Wymondham Photographic Society of which I am a member. It will be a Zoom presentation, naturally in the current situation. The thing is, I have not done a presentation since about 2006 so I will be very rusty! As a taster I will close this blog with the opening image from the show.