Wednesday, 24 September 2008

"God's" Acre at Betteshanger

A couple of days ago I saw a pair of Buzzards near Northbourne and today I decided to have another look at the area. Naturally there was no sign of the Buzzards and I took a look at the old Parish Church of Betteshanger, St Mary the Virgin.

The church is no longer a parish church but is now the chapel for Northbourne Park School. From this view the church looks like a small Norman Church and it is in beautiful settings.

In fact it is one of the most attractive Victorian churches in Kent, paid for by Sir Walter James in 1853. The south door is an imitation of the fine Norman doorway at nearby Barfrestone. The north entrance is genuine Norman work and comes from the twelfth century church that stood on this site.

The church yard and grounds are outstanding and, as is often the case in these quiet villages, it was full of wildlife, and particularly birds. The nearby sweet corn field seemed to be attracting a lot of finches and all the trees around the church were buzzing with Greenfinches and Chaffinches. From every dense piece of cover in the Yew trees I could hear the high pitched calls of Goldcrests. I'm still waiting for the moment I realise I can longer hear sounds this high, but so far so good!

Much more of a surprise was this Brambling. I saw it moving in the Yew and looked at it expecting a Chaffinch to appear. Fortunately it stayed in view long enough to get it picture taken. When it flew of down the garden it was accompanied by a second bird, their white backs standing out. Although there's been a good passage of Siskins at St Margaret's I hadn't seen or heard a Brambling yet so this was a bonus.

There were a few butterflies still around and this Red Admiral on some Ivy took my eye.
From the church the gardens stretch up to Betteshanger House, now the home of Northbourne Park School. Originally build in 1829 for Frederick Morrice, it was extensively remodelled and extended in the 1850's by the new owner Sir Walter James who employed the architect George Devey. Devey made his reputation with this work and a later house by him was St Albans Court at Nonington. It was built in 1875-8 for William Oxenden Hammond who was an enthusiastic watercolourist and friend of the James family. Sir Walter James became Lord Northbourne in 1884. The house became a prep school in 1936.


Kingsdowner said...

Remarkable sighting of the Brambling - that'll probably be the best photo all winter.
More interesting info on the local churches too - thanks!

Anonymous said...

no news on this bird?