by Malcolm Baldwin
If you want a cheery sight in this winter Covid lockdown, look no further than Staverton Churchyard. The early spring flowers are showing themselves amongst the gravestones of our ancestors. It’s a comforting thought to know that those who lie peacefully in the graveyard are part of this annual cycle of renewal.
Frescoes of the crocus plant were found in Knossos Crete, the oldest Mediterranean civilisation pre-dating the Greeks. The spice saffron comes from the stigmas of the autumn variety – crocus sativus. These flowers in the churchyard provide early nectar for emerging queen bumblebees searching for a place to nest.
The recent heavy rain we experienced in early February has been a boost for the various mosses and lichens which adorn the headstones on the graves. The abundant presence of lichens is a sign of pure air quality; they add the patina of age to these monuments of the past.
We all think of daffodils as harbingers of spring, and for many of us they bring to mind Wordsworth’s poem
‘I wandered lonely as a Cloud’.
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills
Where all at once I saw a crowd
A host, of golden daffodils.
Beneath the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Apparently Wordsworth’s favourite flower was the lesser celandine, another bright yellow sunny reminder of increased daylight. They are now fast appearing the Staverton Churchyard. On his death Wordsworth requested that a lesser celandine be carved into the headstone on his grave. However the stonemason was not properly informed, and thought the great man’s grave should be adorned with the greater celandine! It’s a lovely flower but not nearly as beautiful as its lesser cousin.
Staverton is well known for its snowdrops on the river bank. Their season in ending now in the constant cycle of decay and renewal. These flowers are an early treat for the bees, and they reproduce mainly by bulb proliferation. There are 250 varieties with many hybrids. So which are these? Don’t ask!