Trees of St Peter’s Belper


In the previous twelve months St Peter’s Church like other Belper churches has had to change the way it meets and serves the community. At times the building has had to remain completely closed. At the time of writing this, the church can open for two hours a day for private prayer and have a limited service on Sunday mornings. Most of the different church denominations in Belper have moved their services onto the internet with many now having their own Youtube channels. St Peter’s Parish Belper.

St Peter’s Church Belper

During this time St Peter’s has used its grounds and its trees as a way of bringing pleasure to many who walk through the churchyard on their journey around the town. This has included photographs showing the beauty of the natural world at Harvest Time starting in September 2020.

An Advent Calendar gradually appeared in December 2020, in the days leading up to Christmas. Trees were decorated by individuals and community groups with the organisation being coordinated by Belper Woollen Woods. As well as the items used to illustrate the Advent story, bible readings were also attached to the trees.

Trees were decorated in many different ways with people using wool to knit and crochet, copies of paintings by local artists, needle felted pieces, embroidered fabric, painted MDF and wood. A fantastic stable was constructed by Mark and Josh Gregory and this was gradually filled with the main characters from the Christmas story.

From an original painting by Fi Marks

In the month of January 2021 the trees were decked out with jokes, useful information and inspirational quotes.

In February 2021 the trees were decorated by people from the Belper community with Green Hearts. This was as a response to the Climate Coalitions ‘Show the Love’ (#showthelove) campaign, which is about using our voices to celebrate all the things we don’t want to lose, as a result of climate change.

There were so many fantastic hearts made by people of all ages, I decided to make a film about it and even in this it has not been possible to show every heart.

The season of Lent began on February 17th 2021 and prayer flags beautifully written by local school children were strung between some of the trees along the path.

There are plans ahead for an Easter display, and then from April 17th a POET-TREE trail organised as part of Belper Fringe by local poet Carol Brewer. More information can be found on the fringe website.

May 15th – 23rd, will see the trees dressed as part of 2021 Woollen Woods, as this year the woods come to town with trees decorated in both the Memorial Gardens, St Peter’s Churchyard, houses along Long Row and some shop windows.

St Peter’s church is happy to receive ideas from Belper people, please contact the church office for more information. office@stpetersparishbelper.org.uk

Felley Priory

I love to visit the beautiful gardens of Felley Priory. Felley Priory like Dale Abbey was reputed to have been built on the site of a small hermitage. Unlike Dale Abbey no one is sure where the hermit’s dwelling had originally been. The Priory of Felley and the Priory Gardens are situated just half a mile from Junction 27 of the M1 and 16 miles from Dale Abbey. 

The front of Felley Priory House

Felley Priory was founded in 1156 dedicated to Our Lady. It consisted of twelve canons following the Rule of St Augustine. Like Dale Abbey the priory was not always managed well and in 1276 its prior was deposed for mismanagement and misbehaviour. He had permitted the priory buildings to fall into disrepair and, ‘the canons had erred and strayed to the scandal of the neighbourhood.’

Darley Abbey Hydrangeas

Yesterday we had a lovely walk in Darley Park. The sun was shining and the trees were changing colour. We took the opportunity to visit the walled Hydrangea Garden before it shuts to the public on November 3rd. The garden is looked after by a team of volunteers and it was obvious that since our last visit in 2019 a huge amount of work had been done. The garden houses the National Collection of Hydrangea Paniculata.

Hydrangea Derby, (the name of the voluntary group) was set up in 2010 to look after the Hydrangea Garden and in the last 10 years they have become the National Collection, the only such collection in the world. They also have a wide variety of other hydrangea species. The garden now holds 890 different cultivars.

Dale Abbey, Derbyshire

Dale Abbey is less than three miles from the suburbs of Derby to the west, and close to Industrial areas on the Eastern side. Originally known as Depedale it is a most intriguing and beautiful area. The story of Dale Abbey begins when a Derby baker had a dream in which the Virgin Mary appeared and told him to go to Depedale, to live a life of solitude and prayer. At that time it was a wild and marshy place and the hermit carved out a home and chapel in a sandstone cliff. There is a path beside the church and farm which goes through the woods and from this are several ways up to the caves using steps.

Here the hermit continued to worship until one day the smoke from his fire was seen by Ralph Fitz Geremund the owner of the land. He rode over to the place where he saw the smoke, intending to drive the intruder away. On hearing the hermit’s story he was filled with compassion and allowed him to remain. He also gave the hermit the tithe money from Borrowash Mill. This enabled the hermit to build a small chapel and home on the site of the present church.

After the hermit’s death, word spread of the religious significance of the place and Dale Abbey was founded in about 1200 by the White Canons. The abbey remained until 1538, when it was dissolved and the majority demolished by the command of Henry VIII.

Remains of Dale Abbey

Dukes Quarries, Whatstandwell

I love walking along the Cromford Canal and this year have also started to explore woodland near the canal. It is possible to park near the Cromford Canal at Whatstandwell or in a couple of small parking places along Robin Hood Road. This area has a cluster of old stone quarries which started to be worked over 200 years ago. Most are now overgrown with trees and other vegetation, one however, Middle Hole Quarry is still working.

A Walk Along the Cromford Canal

I like to walk along the Cromford Canal and enjoy the wildlife, industrial heritage and numerous wildflowers. One of my favourite walks starts in the village of Lee where Florence Nightingale and John Smedley came from. Parking near to the Smedley factory the walk starts along the Nightingale arm of the canal. John Smedley Knitwear was founded in 1784 at Lea Mills, Matlock, Derbyshire by Mr. John Smedley and Mr. Peter Nightingale (Florence’s great-great Uncle). The Lea Mills factory is still John Smedley’s home, making it the world’s oldest manufacturing factory in continuous operation.

John Smedley, Lee Mills, Lee, Derbyshire.

The construction of the Cromford Canal was completed in late 1794, to improve the movement of heavy goods in and out of Cromford. The canal soon became very busy moving thousands of tonnes of stone all over the country from Cromford Wharf. Lead was taken the much shorter distance to the smelter at Lea, using the Nightingale Arm of the canal. One of the most unusual of shipments was two stone lions, sculpted in Darley Dale  and then taken by canal to Liverpool, where they can still be seen standing by the entrance to St George’s Hall.

The Nightingale arm of the canal joins the main canal at the site of Aqueduct Cottage.

Aqueduct Cottage where Nightingale and Cromford Canal meet.

Aqueduct Cottage was originally built as a lengths-man’s and lock-keeper’s accommodation in 1802 by Peter Nightingale. It was necessary to have a stop-lock at the entrance to this arm of the canal and the operation of the lock needed to be supervised by a lock keeper. This is most likely the reason for the construction of the cottage in this location. The cottage was occupied until the 1970s but then gradually fell into disrepair. It is currently being repaired by the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust with the help of many volunteers. It will become a visitor interpretation centre, to tell the story of its history, the former people who lived there, and how these aspects related to a Derwent Valley landscape.

Once I have walked the short distance from Lee to the main canal I can choose to turn right and walk towards High Peak Junction or left towards Whatstandwell. On this occasion I turned left and this is a record of some of the flowers seen at the beginning of August 2020 along this stretch of canal.

Hemp Agrimony

All along the canal there is plenty of Meadowsweet, which is edible and can be used in similar ways to elderflowers. Once valued for its lasting fragrance; the dried flowers were strewn across floors to perfume the home, and was said to be Queen Elizabeth 1’s favourite scent, ‘for the smell thereof maketh the hart merrie’. It was also used in Anglo-Saxon times to flavour mead, and has had many medicinal uses. In the 1890s it was used to make acetylsalicylic acid later known as aspirin but unlike todays aspirin it is kinder on the stomach.

Along this stretch of canal there are several Guelder Rose and Bramble bushes, this year both have plenty of ripe juicy fruit.

The flowers and berries this year have been beautiful and seem more rampant than usual, maybe due to weather or less pollution because of lockdown.

Wildflowers during Lockdown

I have always enjoyed walking in the countryside and over the years have tried to recognise and learn the names of wildflowers. I have four wildflower books at home but even these do not show every flower as there are so many different ones in our lanes and fields. In more recent years there have been concerns about the demise of our native plants and the loss of wildflower meadows. It is thought that we have lost 97% of wildflower meadows since the 1930s. There is a lot of debate over the picking of flowers but it is important that children learn to love them and this could mean picking a few. This is what Plantlife has to say,

‘Contrary to widespread belief, it is not illegal to pick most wildflowers for personal, non-commercial use. In a similar vein, it’s not illegal to forage most leaves and berries for food in the countryside for non-commercial use.’

Path around the field.

During this period of Lockdown in 2020 we have been allowed to go out each day for exercise but asked to keep within walking distance of home. This has been quite an eye opener to discover all the flowers growing in the fields near Belper. I have been walking virtually the same route each day and have really noticed the succession of our beautiful, colourful flowers.

Looking across the fields towards the A6

Lockdown started on March 23rd and during this month I noticed Wood Anemones and Mouse-ears both small white flowers. Wood anemones grow in shady places and droop their heads at evening time or during bad weather. It used to be said that fairies slept in the flowers closing the petals around themselves. Mouse-ears seem to like a bit more sun and are considered to be a weed but I wouldn’t mind some in my garden. In the hedgerows blackthorn flowers open before the bush grows its leaves .

Blackthorn flowers before the leaves come out.

April is the month when Bluebells and Wild Garlic appear and this year the bluebells seemed to be early, probably because of the warm weather. The fields are bright with the yellow flowers of dandelions and bluebells flower around the field edges and in the hedgerows. Hawthorne flowers open in the hedges and the edge of woods look glorious with Wild Cherry blossom. Cow Parsley starts to wave in the field margins and cuckoo flowers appeared wherever the grass was allowed to grow. It was good to have the time to really observe these flowers as so much of my usual rushing around had to stop. 

In May Dandelions gave way to Buttercups, just leaving their whiteish seed heads behind. Cow Parsley continued to open closely followed at the end of the month by the much sturdier Common Hogweed (not to be confused with Giant Hogweed). Also towards the end of the month I noticed large areas of one field turning white with the opening of Oxeye Daisies. Hawthorne flowers faded and the Elderflowers came into bud ready to open towards the end of the month. On the edge of one of the fields was a large patch of Yellow Rattle the first time I have seen this in the countryside. The rest of this field was covered in the yellow and oranges of Bird’s-foot trefoil and the lovely cerise pink of clover.

June so far has seen the Elderflowers open properly in the hedges and some of the fields look red at a distance with the flowering of Sheep’s sorrel. I also notice pink Dog-roses covering the bushes and the small white flowers of Brambles are coming out.

I have really enjoyed walking over the same fields for weeks and noticing how different flowers come into bloom and change the colour of the fields and hedges. I had not really thought about this before and at the moment in June the fabulous Foxgloves are just starting to flower. The fields where the dandelions flowered earlier are now being covered by Rough hawkbit.

I am looking forward to seeing more flowers opening during the month of June and how these alter the colour of the fields.

Learning to Forage

I have been fascinated for some years with the idea of foraging and being able to eat free food from the countryside. Some of the obvious items such as blackberries we have eaten for years and almost don’t think of these as wild. In the last couple of years I have made Elderflower Cordial from the flowers and last Autumn Elderflower Jelly from the berries.

With more time at home at the moment during lockdown I have been trying out other recipes. The first was wild garlic pesto. I found a recipe on line and substituted wild garlic for basil,  walnuts for pine nuts and strong cheddar for parmesan. It was delicious and I used some to flavour pasta and also spread on chunky homemade bread. The flowers of wild garlic can be eaten and these look good as a garnish to decorate salads etc.I posted my efforts on Facebook and was challenged to make a tart which included wild garlic, dandelion leaves and stinging nettles. The recipe suggested seem to use large quantities of all three so I decided to make a cheese and egg quiche and add as many leaves as I could gather. The original recipe was for Wild Garlic, Nettle and Dandelion Tart,  which does have useful information on how to prepare the wild leaves. I then made my usual shortcrust pastry, lined a flan dish, added the prepared leaves, filled with grated cheese, 4 beaten eggs mixed with half a pint of milk, cooked at 180 C until well risen and golden about half an hour. It was delicious.I have always loved dandelions as a flower, they are such a lovely bright yellow colour, the leaves have a most interesting shape and seed heads are amazing.  They are also very important in the Spring for bees and other pollinators but this year I have been even more aware of them in the fields and grass verges. I decided to have a go at making dandelion flower jelly. Altogether it took about 5 hours. One to gather the flowers, 2 to remove the petals, 2 to simmer the petals in water, so not an efficient use of time. I eventually ended up with one jar of jelly. I have since found several recipes for dandelion honey and this does seem quite popular so I may have another try. I am also going to try dying fabric with some dandelion petals.I have noticed that the elderflowers are in bud but not quite out yet so I made some cordial from hawthorn flowers. The recipe is here Hawthorn Blossom Cordial I really love this recipe and the flavour of the flowers, I would even go so far as to say I prefer it to the elderflower cordial.There are so many wild plants that can be eaten but also many that are very poisonous so I am very careful to stick to the plants I can be very sure of.

Belper’s Woollen Advent Calendar 2019

The idea for creating Belper’s first Woollen Advent Calendar came from seeing how the Six Streets Community in Derby organised  their window Advent Calendar. A different house unveils their decorated front window each day of advent. This is something that takes place in towns and villages up and down the country and the Eden Project have written a guide as to how to organise one.

In Belper we decided to do it differently for two reasons, firstly it was difficult to think of an area where there were enough houses with windows near the pavement and secondly we have so many groups and individuals who already enjoy the idea of Yarn Bombing. The trees chosen were in the main shopping area of the town along King Street, Campbell Street, Strutt Street and the Memorial Gardens.A list of trees was made with measurements, permission granted from all the relevant authorities and then an appeal put out on Facebook. In true Advent Calendar style 24 trees were decided on and these were adopted by shops, care homes, schools, churches, social/craft/news  groups and individuals. On November 30th  woollen squares with the numbers 1-24 were attached to the trees and leaflets were placed in shops, the library, cinema and churches. The leaflet informed the reader who had made each tree, gave websites and titles where they had been chosen.The Belper Woollen Woods facebook page was updated each day with that days tree. Each tree was unique and delighted the Christmas shoppers in the town. The trees will stay in place until January 5th so that people can have the opportunity to see the completed Community Advent Calendar.

The Advent Calendar has been a fantastic Community project with some truely amazing trees. A huge THANK YOU to all who were willing to be part of this.

1 Belper Nailed editor Clare Washbrook.    https://nailed.community                                              This tree included hats & scarves for people in need.

Chronic Creatives                                                  www.facebook.com/groups/chroniccreative

3  U3A Charity Crafting Group www.u3asites.org.uk/belper/groups

4   Belper Baptist Church Unto Us a Child is Born    www.belperbaptist.org

5   Belper Methodist Church www.belpercentralmethodist.co.uk

6   Chatterbox Belper  www.facebook.com/Chatterboxbelper7   Spencer Grove Care Home                                         www.milfordcare.co.uk/spencer-grove

8  Diane Strauther, Joy Meakin & Jan Sheppard               While Shepherds watched

9   Holbrook School for Autism                                        www.holbrookautism.derbyshire.sch.uk

10   Christine and Jo   Waiting for Father Christmouse

11   Belper North Mill      www.belpernorthmill.org.uk

12   Whitemoor Day Opportunities                                    12 Drummers Drumming       www.facebook.com/whitemoordayopportunities   13   Marianne Hulse

14   Helen Pridmore    Hedgehugs   www.hedgehogstreet.org

15   Suz Hennessey & Tracey Crawford                            The 12 Days of Christmas

16  Christchurch Church         www.christchurchbelper.co.uk

17  Air Ambulance Shop   www.theairambulanceservice.org.uk/shop/wndlr-belper

18  Milford Care Home              www.milfordcare.co.uk19  St Peter’s Church         We Three Kings    www.stpetersparishbelper.org.uk

20  Belper Gardening Club      www.facebook.com/groups/belpergardeningclub

21  Oxfam Shop          www.oxfam.org.uk/shop

22  Cynthia Lenham & Christine Moorcroft                        Santa’s Favourites

23  Openwoodgate Preschool www.openwoodgatepreschool.co.uk

24  Transition Belper          Hang the Stockings   www.transitionbelper.orgPhotos kindly taken by Syd Greig.