Nature's Secret Larder - An Essex Churchyard


Bushcraft Blog

An Essex Churchyard
26th March 2012

Recently I decided to take a trip to a small village named Pleshey, in the parish of High Easter, both of which are based in Essex, England, and very close to each other.  Essex is often marred with a somewhat undesirable image, but old Essex is very different, and what one may consider as a traditional and tranquil English setting.

Pleshey is where many members of my family grew up, and although many of the ancient buildings have long since fallen, the memories are still as strong as ever.  My granddad grew up here, as did my mum and as a child many of the stories I’d hear were based in this little place hidden away from the sprawl of the larger towns which surround it. In a way, these country-tales told to me by my granddad are the reason for both my job, and this blog, because without these I may not have become interested in nature

Pleshey is probably best known for its motte and bailey castle, which originally consisted of a wooden palisade and tower on a high man-made hill (motte) surrounded by two baileys (castle yard or ward), which at some time in the castle's early history was surrounded by a moat.  Today, all remains have long since gone, but the huge mound is still present and often used as an attraction where historical re-enactments and medieval fares are held.

There are two lovely old churches, Holy Trinity, Pleshey and St Mary’s church, High Easter. Although I’m not a religious person, I do like old churches and church yards – they’re fantastic for wildlife, especially plants, including a few specialist species, such as Ivy-Laved Toadflax Cymbalaria muralis and Yew Taxus baccata.

As it was a bright and warm sunny day, I decided to take along my camera bag, and took a few snaps to share with you some the wildlife and pieces of history which can be found in an English Church yard (St Mary’s, High Easter), which has remained unchanged for hundreds and hundreds of years.

White violets are not that common, but I wouldn’t say rare as such, more locally common.  These beautiful flowers seems to be quite common, forming large patches in places.

White Violets

White Violet

Speedwell is a tiny flower, so I’ve used a macro lens to show you the finer details or something that is little more than a few millimetres across in real-life.


Lesser celandine Ranunculus ficaria is a common plant of damp grounds, and during early spring it’s incredibly abundant. It would often be used a herbal medicine and collected from the grounds of a church – find out more here.  I decided to a take a few “arty” shots as well.

Lesser clendine

Lesser clendine

Ivy-Leaved Toadflax is a fascinating little plant.  It’s not originally from England, but its well-established now and specialises in growing on old walls. The leaves used to be eaten as a salad leaf, and they have a somewhat cress-like flavour, but are considered to be slightly toxic.

Ivy Leaved Toadflax

Beefly’s are one of my favourite spring-time insects.  They almost resemble a miniature flying mouse with a needle-like nose. They’re quite small and a little bit jumpy, but if you’re patient, you can usually capture some shots of them.  Look at the close up of their eyes!


Beefly on a wall

Beefly eyes

Outside the church there are plenty of old features, such as gargoyles, and original doors which are of exceptional age – just look at how well they were made, and they’re still as solid, strong and heavy as they ever were. I couldn’t get a full frame view of the church itself, as the smallest lens I had with me was a 50mm, and I needed to be too far away to obtain a full-frame shot, which is why there’s not one!



Church Door

Church Door Close Up

Church Door Small

Church Door Inside

Church Door and Window

Inside the light was poor, but the features were amazing, just look at the detail of the stained glass.  I used flash here to give a black background, it’s all natural, and I’ve not played around with the images to darken the back ground.

Stained Glass High Easter Church

High Easter Church

Stained Glass

Lastly, here are some images of the ancient church yard.  Look at the contrast between the new stones and those which have laid there since the 16/1700’s.


Very old stones with cage

Old graves


Grave from the 1930s


Old Cross Grave

End of the day


Catch you on the trail



Kris on 19/06/12

Hi Christine. Thank you for your kind comments. I completely agree with you about the 'stereotypical' images of Essex. Essex still has a few of the most remote spots in the country. I know a couple of places were you can walk all day in the countryside and not see another person, and thats rare these days.

Christine on 17/06/12

Stunning pictures! It's a pity Essex has been marred with the stereotypical tabloid image of the county, when it's so full of beautiful and historic towns and villages. I live fairly near the Easters so it was a pleasure to come across this entry whilst browsing around foraging websites.

Kris on 31/03/12

Thank you, Anita :)

Anita on 30/03/12

Thank you Kris for sharing your day with us. The pictures are wonderful. The Church must have been a marvelous place to visit. I just love the Stain Glass Windows.

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