Milton Abbey, more properly called ‘The Abbey Church of St Mary, St Sansom and St Bradwalader*’, is a former Benedictine monastery founded in c10. The present building dates from the c14 and c15. The Abbey, with a post-reformation country house attached where the monastic buildings used to be, is now a school.
The Church building consists of the tower, transepts and choir. The nave is entirely absent, not as the result of the reformation’s destructive zeal (though that may account for the absence of statues in the empty interior niches). In fact, the nave was never built. The blank arch on the ‘front’ side (below) indictes how huge the nave – and the completed edifice – would have been.
The country house / school buildings are to the left side of the Abbey. This isn’t the place to detail the comings and goings of the various families who lived there, but it’s all on Wiki and also in an exhaustive entry in the Dorset ‘Pevsner’ – or in more technical detail HERE
We enjoyed a c15 pun high on a wall inside the Church. The date shown on the device looks at first sight to be 1618, but is in fact 1514. Medieval numbering was not formed in quite the way we are familiar with now. The W stands for Abbot William of Middleton (the original town name, shortened to Milton), with his rebus, a mill on top of a tun. Close to the Church, there is a small stone circle about which I became quite excited. Sadly, a complete lack of mention of this circle in any historical context suggests that it is a modern imposter, perhaps related to a school project. But it’s pretty convincing!
*Me neither. And online research doesn’t disclose much about St Bradwalader. Or indeed anything at all.
All photos: Keith Salvesen
This fearsome creature was within an inch of being crushed by my heedless foot… but luckily it made a surprisingly agile lurch to one side just in time. I had no idea what it was, other than the largest caterpillar I have ever come across. Everyone else will know, of course, that it is the childhood form of what will become an elephant hawk-moth Deilephila elpenor. I haven’t knowingly seen one of those either.
These caterpillars have three ‘poses’. The first is the usual day-to-day one, as it goes about its business with its little snout – or ‘trunk’ – extended. Note the four prominent ‘eye’ markings behind the head.
At the threat of danger, the caterpillar assumes its ‘elephant’ pose, tucking away its snout and humping its front end so that the 4 ‘eyes’ glare intimidatingly. From the front, there is the hint of a mouth, with two sharp eyes above it.
From above, the creature looks like a formidable, probably toxic adversary, to be given a wide berth.
The third pose is a so-called snake pose, whereby the caterpillar curves its body, and, as I found, continues to do so back and forth accompanied by alarmingly quick ‘head’ movements, as if squirming menacingly. I backed away, before bravely putting it on a laurel leaf to move into better light in order to inspect it further. At the back, there’s a backward-facing hook or spike – in common with most hawk-moth species I think.
I haven’t investigated how the eyes are constructed, but the white parts are plainly holes rather than surface marking
I had to look up what the actual moth looks like, and courtesy of wiki I can reveal what everyone probably knows already – like this:
Had I wanted to straighten it out, the caterpillar would have been over 2 inches long. Quite wide, too. All-in-all an impressive beast.
It took a year before there were many settlers in the new bee house. To begin with, there were just some transients; tiny bees that stationed themselves at the mouth of a hole, retreating from time to time to the depths. I’ve no idea what type of bee they were, but they didn’t leave any building works. And then there were a few wax caps to wonder about.
The first resident occupied the penthouse.
The box began to weather a bit during that first winter, and to fall apart slightly. That summer, we had mason bees in many of the holes, with around 60% occupancy – plus some waxed caps. The timber homes were clearly preferred to the bamboo sticks, and the first to fill up. Later, we noticed the first leaf cutters moving in, their green plugs slowly turning brown as the leaves withered.
This year, by the end of May, business was thriving. The house was weathered and had no doubt completely lost the heady scent of Garden Centre. The upper storey was more popular than the lower; maybe the horizontal stem of a cox apple tree growing against the old wall was a disincentive for potential downstairs dwellers.
Two months later, as July fades into August, there are a few changes, but overall the house is much the same. So far, there have been no leaf cutters. And no little ‘peeping’ bees either. I’m disgracefully uninformed about the types of bee to which we offer a home. We’ve replanted much of the garden to benefit honeys and bumbles – with a consequent increase in butterflies and hitherto unknown types of moth. The solitaries are still a bit of a mystery. Time I got a grip, I think. Still, the apples are looking very promising…
All photos: Keith Salvesen / Rolling Harbour
Until last weekend I’d never heard of, let alone seen, a ROSY FOOTMAN. I’m beginning to discover and enjoy the ornate to downright bizarre names that moths tend to be given. They have this in common with fly-fishing flies – the previous day I had caught a plump wild brown trout on the River Frome with a ‘Tups Indispensable’*.
High on an inside wall above a mirror, I saw a small pink item. On closer inspection, I could tell it was a moth, and one I had never seen before. I had to fetch a small stepladder to inspect it and (with some difficulty) to photograph it, . Meet a Rosy Footman.
The Rosy Footman is apparently a moth of southern England, in particular the southern-most counties from Kent to Cornwall. They fly in July and August. With such very particular markings, they are unmistakeable, but clearly I’d failed to notice one ever before… I’m glad I have now.
* For those concerned about these things, I use barbless hooks. I netted the fish, unhooked it still in the water and released it in about 30 seconds to fight another day. Or preferably to produce more wild stock.
Until a few days ago, I’m not sure I’d ever before seen a pale tussock moth Calliteara pudibunda that was on a wall inside our house. I took it outside and put it gently onto an old garden bench. 10 minutes later it was gone. As is so often the case I only had an iPhone with me at the time, so the photo above is a bit rough and ready. On the other hand, you get a good idea of the subtle and pretty colouring and marking of this moth – and as you see, it was intriguingly furry, with spotted legs.
I flicked through a couple of slightly basic butterfly / moth books we have, but could find nothing like this creature. So I checked out the FB page of UK MOTHS to find a match. Sure enough, others had queried the ID of this species so I discovered the name easily enough. I don’t think it is particularly rare. There were also plenty of other fascinating and indeed extraordinary-looking moths that are apparently quite common in the UK. A FB page that’s well worth taking a look at.
The pale tussock is a moth of spring / early summer, and its appearance seems to be distinctive enough to avoid confusion with other moth species. The other feature, only deployed once I’d got it outside the house, are its feathery antennae (below).
To make up for my rather poor photos, here is a really good one to make up for it, showing a pale tussock in all its glory…
Photo credit: Kurt Kulac / Wiki
Closworth, a small village on the Somerset / Dorset border, has a fine church with c13 origins. The village itself is best known for its historical importance as a bell-foundry between the c16 and c18, originating with the Purdue family. Few traces of the foundry remain, but some notable bells survive from its earliest days, for example in Wells Cathedral.
A quick visit to the church revealed two items of interest for this blog: a fine early c17 tomb; and an agreeable but gnomon-less sundial of uncertain date.
TOMB OF WILLIAM COLLINS, 1609
HERE . LYETH . THE . BODIE .
OF . WILLIAM . COLLINS . THE .
SONNE . OF . ELLIS . COLLINS . WHO
DIED . THE . XXIX . OF . IAN
ANO . DOMI . 1609
The inscription on this lichened hamstone tomb is in leaded letters set into the stone and fixed. Not all have survived the intervening centuries. I have no idea how this was achieved, but presumably the lettering was first cut into the stone; and with the stone on a horizontal surface the lead was then added to fit the incisions, and pinned in place. The result is pleasingly rustic, with some ornamentation of the As and Hs. This type of inscription-work may not be particularly unusual, but seeing this ancient tomb dappled by sunlight on a spring day made it seem special. And I always enjoy ornamental dates.
SUNDIAL: ALL SANTS CHURCH, CLOSWORTH
We didn’t notice the sundial on the way into the churchyard. Our attention had been drawn to a tall memorial to the other side of the path. On the way out, it was of course obvious – as was the lack of a gnomon. Like the tomb and the gateposts, the pillar appears to be made from the local hamstone. There isn’t much information to be gleaned from the dial itself. There’s no maker’s mark (though sometimes those are hidden on the underside of the plate). At a guess, it is c19, but any comments would be welcome.