Posted by: lensweb | July 5, 2012

Breedon Hill and Church Visit

LENS visit to Breedon Hill SSSI and Church 14 May 2012

Grid ref  SK 403 229 • Interactive map
Roadside parking at the green in Breedon (Melbourne Lane), next to the Priory garden centre.
Leaders: Christine Carrier (walk), Ida Wright (church)

Breedon Hill is of both natural and historical interest.  The areas of limestone grassland support a wealth of plants and, being of national importance, have been designated an SSSI. First fortified in the third century BC, the remaining earthworks are thought to date from the 3rd or 4th century AD and are known as the Bulwarks. In AD 675 a charter was granted to build a monastery. The church appears to be balanced precariously due to the magnesium limestone quarry, which has removed half of the hill, including the Saxon graveyard, to provide agricultural limestone and stone for road building.

We arrived in Breedon after a day of fine weather to see a dark cloud approaching and then hovering over the hill. Showers accompanied us as we followed the narrow footpath. Part of the hill is now fenced to house the sheep, which once roamed free. The woolly grey leaves of great mullein, which had been clearly visible a fortnight earlier were now swamped by many stems of willowherb. There was some beautiful white and red campion, patches of wild strawberry and a very small saxifrage plant on a rock. Was it meadow or rue-leafed? We weren’t sure. The rain and our appointment with Ida prevented us from lingering.

Suddenly we heard a bird’s loud alarm cry. A large brown bird stood out on the hillside and was swiftly identified as a male red-legged partridge, which obligingly posed for photographs as it protected its nest. With splendid views all around, we reached the church.

Red-legged partridge image

Red-legged partridge. Photo © David Pinney

Inside we joined more of our group, who, declining the hill climb, had already arrived. Ida, church warden emeritus, took us into the bell tower, where we watched fascinated as the ringers perform Keg Meg and Priory changes. We were also treated to a viewing of the ‘angel in the tower’, a Saxon stone carving set in the wall.

As the rain poured down and the bells rang out, Ida made the history of the church of St Mary and St Hardulph come to life with her stories. The little-known St Hardulph is thought to have lived as a hermit on the banks of the River Trent maybe as early as the 7th century. The church was bought by the Ferrers family at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. We were engrossed by the tale of the Earl who shot his steward. After looking at the wonderful collection of Anglo Saxon carvings and friezes, we descended the hill, admiring the view in the gathering dusk.

Joan Breakwell


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