Posted by: lensweb | August 31, 2016

LENS Goes to Church

Mon Aug 22,  Stoney Clouds & St Giles Church

A circular walk (2 miles). The church will be open for viewing.

Meet 6.30pm at St Giles Park car park, Stanton Road, Sandiacre.

Grid ref  SK 478 372                          Postcode (nearby)  NG10 5EL

Leader: Marion Bryce

It felt good to be joined by so many friends for my favourite walk around Stoney Clouds, an Erewash Borough Council Local Nature Reserve. It was originally enclosed farmland with hedged boundaries and small areas of woodland associated with the sandstone ridge and rock outcrops.


The first point of call was the village lock up for the imprisonment of stray animals 1660. We counted everyone at this point. Following the famous herring bone wall built of huge blocks of stone  we looked for white letter hairstreak butterflies on the wych elm branches which were waving over the wall of the vicarage garden.


We entered the silent solitude of Shady Lane, part of an ancient route across the Erewash Valley linking Dale Abbey with Lenton Priory. A fallen bough showed a beetle gallery, typical of the bark beetle that spreads Dutch elm disease which causes the premature death of local elm trees.

We walked alongside a relic of an old hedge, huge ash trees and hazel clad slopes,  passing an old stone quarry, we stepped out into the sunshine. A large blue and green dragonfly stalked us as the wet grass and bracken crushed underfoot. Evocative earthy coconut smell. Cardboard hill is where we love to sledge in winter but throughout the year children slide on the slippery grass in cardboard boxes keeping the bracken at bay.  The hill is quite steep and it is just a matter of taking the time to admire the flowers, so up we went. Stuart was wrong, there was no intention to cause harm, ‘What doesn’t kill you, does you good’.

A mini-mining bee, with yellow jodhpurs was raiding pollen from the hundreds of yellow stars of tormentil. The bluebells of spring had been replaced with the more refined harebells of summer. We stroked the leaves of cat’s ear. The wispy magenta  flowers of common bent grass gave way to brutish bracken at the top of the hill where one solitary and miserably wet cuckoo bee sat on the purple pompoms of devil’s bit scabious.

The sandstone scarp is covered with twisted old penduculate oaks. Looking closely at the oak canopy we could see the circular paper cut outs of spangle galls, many spiky knopper galls and  the papery packages of artichoke galls,  each a tiny gall wasp nest. Walking along the undulating grassy summit we saw mauve thistle knapweed flowers and the yellow smiley faces of common ragwort, we were looking for golden rod, a native perennial of well-drained nutrient-poor soils. This flower looks so similar to ragwort that sometimes horse lovers remove it thinking it might be toxic, but  is this really necessary?  We were always told it could only be a problem in grass cut for hay.


Right at the cliff edge, away from trampling feet, it was lovely to see the goldenrod flowers where they like it best, well away from the crowds at the cliff edge. Bird’s foot trefoil, lady’s bedstraw and betony were admired on another lesser walked grassy slope. A carder bee sipped nectar.  These are flowers of unimproved grassland, favoured by moths and butterflies, which have been lost from many sites in the lowlands of Derbyshire in recent years due to agricultural improvement and urbanisation.

Sitting on a bench thoughtfully provided at the topmost viewpoint as we looked out over the tops of the oak and dusky birch, over the motorway, towards St Mary’s Church at Ilkeston and 22 km beyond to Crich Tower.


We then cut through an archway into the wood that was planted with native trees by The Groundwork Trust  about twenty years ago. It was very dark, a crowd of trees with wood avens surviving in the dusty soil below. Walking by the nettly bottomed hedge we reached the lane to St Giles Church, a prominent local landmark which few of us had ever been inside.

Perched on oak pews we were treated to a history of the church by the church wardens. This is a very long history starting before Saxon times, witness the green man carved on the font. Who was on the throne in 1345? Edward the third and his wife Phillipa are serene in stone. Where were the clergymen to grace the stone sedilia? The sun beamed through stained glass windows, a memorial window from the second world war, an apostle window from Victorian times and a jumbled window of glass from Dale Abbey. Saints watching over us were St Giles who saved his pet deer from an arrow and St Chad, who we know well from Church Wilne. Grinning from the top of the Norman archway dividing the chancel from the chapel was the Sandiacre imp.

Marion Bryce 30 August 2016


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