Mothering Sunday church bells surprise

Early risers may have heard the bells of St Andrew’s, Weybread, on BBC Radio 4’s News Briefing programme at 5.45am. This round tower church has six bells cast by the short-lived Redenhall Foundry in 1879. The tenor, which weighs 9 cwt, is tuned to A flat.

The band was recorded ringing Cambridge and Norwich Surprise Minor. If you want to listen again, then go to BBC Sounds and the recording will be available for the next 30 days from Sunday, March 10.

The Round Tower Churches Society held its 2019 annual meeting at Weybread. The church, which has a circular tower standing 53ft, is thought to date from the 13th century  or possibly the early 14th, according to the late Stephen Hart in his book, The Round Towers of England.

St Andrew also has a memorial to the first Suffolk recipient of the Victoria Cross, Sergeant Alfred Ablett, who served in the Crimea.

The church can be found at IP21 5TR.

When members visited the church in May 2019, there was keen interest from botanists in the party. It was reported in the Society’s quarterly magazine, The Round Tower ( December 2019).

Rare plant detected

Our botanical “detective” Richard Barham spotted an unusual plant growing in the churchyard in early May at the church. He saw dozens of green shoots of a leafy tubular plant standing about six to eight inches tall with slightly heart-hapred leaves.

It was spread in a patch, roughly five yards by nine yards, in front of the east window of the church’s south aisle and showed signs of some yellow flowers. He took photographs and began his botanical research. His conclusion – it was Aristolochia clematis or birthwort. According to the 1999 Flora of Norfolk, this plant was first recorded in the county in 1793 by the Rev Salton at Carrow Abbey, Norfolk, where it might have been a relic of plants in the nuns’ herbal garden.

It is also well-known near Sturston Hall on the (MoD’s) Stanta military training area, where it is unchecked and has become rampant after some 45 years. In 1997, it was noted as occurring in two distinct colonies. The origins of birthwort and how it came to be introduced into the country are not really known.

Photograph of St Andrew’s Church, Weybread by Stuart Bowell in 2017.