From the Churchyard: Wildflowers - Lady's Bedstraw

Written by Claire Jordan.

Here's a puzzle. What single thing can get rid of moths and fleas, help curdle cheese, work as a coffee bean substitute, be used to make mattresses, provide red dye and work as a medicine for several illnesses?                                                        

Our ancestors worked out that the flower Lady's Bedstraw could provide all these. This soft, sweet-smelling, pale primrose, delicate flower which grows in drifts in meadows and banks, rocky corners and verges was an important domestic herb. It was strewn around to deter fleas and give the house a fragrant scent of fresh mown hay. Its formal name is Galium Verum - Gala is Greek for milk and its flowers were used instead of rennet to make milk curdle. If you were fortunate enough to be born a lady or gentlemen you would sleep on a palliasse stuffed with this sweet smelling dried flower. If born a servant, filling the mattresses might have been one of the jobs allotted to you.

 Ladies Bedstraw 2021.07.21.Photo A Rae 1smLady's Bedstraw at St Peter's, July 2021. Photo: A Rae

 It was believed that childbirth was made easier by lying on a bed of bedstraw. One legend relates how The Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus on a bed of lady's bedstraw and bracken. The bracken refused to acknowledge Jesus and lost its flower, while the bedstraw bloomed in recognition and turned from white to gold.  

Used for coffee and tea substitutes (tea can be bought in Holland and Barratt), the leaves, stems and flowers of this versatile plant were also used to make medicine. It was used long ago to treat skin rashes and allergies, gout, urinary tract problems, kidneys and epilepsy and has some limited uses in medicine today.

Lady's Bedstraw is one among the richly diverse wildflowers that have been growing for centuries in Forncett St. Peter's churchyard.

St Mary an Eco Church

Written by Administrator.

St Mary’s has registered for a project called ‘Eco Church’ – its purpose is to help as many churches as possible celebrate what they are doing to care for the environment.  At the moment we have a Bronze Award for Buildings, a Silver Award for Land, Silver for Community and Global engagement, and Silver for Lifestyle. The church has met some of the criteria due to factors such as leaving a large section of the churchyard for ‘wild’ growing, and having trees planted. There is also a bio toilet, and we are in the process of putting up bat and bird nesting boxes. As we continue to be able to give positive answers to more of the questions we hope to increase those awards to the next level.

Copies of the church guide/history book written by Roy Tricker are available for £3 – contact

eco church

Jo and Raptor OR Joy and Rapture

Written by Terry Hickman Smith (as published in the Forncett Flyer November 2020).

On one of my morning walks with Nutmeg four or five weeks ago I came across a wounded kestrel at the bottom of the Sewage works footpath. It had a badly damaged right eye, it couldn’t fly and its only defence was digging its very sharp talons into my fingers.

I wasn’t sure how to deal with a wild bird in this state. After a couple of attempt to pick it up – including the bloody fingers – I tried putting my handkerchief over its eyes which calmed it enough for me to hold it. It didn’t really struggle for the whole way home but looked in a really bad way.

image002

Via the Norfolk Wildlife Trust who recommended a lovely man who said he couldn’t do anything for the bird but put me in touch with a raptor rescue specialist called Jo. Jo runs the Phoenix Bird of Prey Rescue and came over to look at my female kestrel that afternoon. She took one look at it and pronounced that there was nothing she could do. The poor bird apparently had something that sounded to my deaf ears like Trowse Trichosis. I later found out it is actually called Frounce Trichomoniasis – a horrible virus endemic in pigeons who are not affected by it. It is thought, after much research, that where pigeons drink they leave a trace of the virus and if a raptor drinks soon after the raptor can catch it. In raptors it leads to blindness, damaged hearing, weakness, digestive problems and death. Great disappointment.

However the lovely Jo said she would try. There might be a small chance that a course of anti-biotics might help alongside intensive care and careful feeding. She took the female kestrel away and I thought that would be the last I would see of her.

About two weeks Later Jo phoned to say that, against all expectations, our kestrel was responding to treatment and was getting stronger. This week (last week in October) Jo rang again with the amazing news that she (the kestrel that is) was ready for release. Today, 29th October Jo brought her here and we released her by the bridge where I found her. It is Jo’s policy to release the birds she rescues from the place where it was found – seems eminently sensible. After a bit of a struggle to get out of the box she flew off in a big arc and landed in a tree by the footpath. Apparently that was a good release. She looked strong and happy to be flying again. Pity it was raining but preferable to release in rain than keep too long in captivity.

The big lesson to me was to have acted quickly. Another few hours may have triggered a less happy outcome. If you find yourself in similar circumstances please do act quickly.

Jo at Phoenix can be contacted on 07914 661385 and her website is www.phoenixbirdofpreyrescue.org.

Musicals & Swing at St Mary's Church

Written by May Prior.

Director & Producer Paul Blake, & the cast of 'Ensemble' performed 'Musicals & Swing' to three packed audiences in St Mary's Church. They included a variety of show favourites, such as Miss Saigon, Les Miserable, Sister Act, Cabaret, and a selection from the 'Rat Pack' era. A finale from the Lion King had the audience singing and clapping.

Laura Macdonald - No one but you from 'We Will Rock You'

Photos by Richard Ball - Click on pic for more

A HUGE thank you to them all for their hard work in putting together and performing the show, helping to raise funds for the on-going restoration of the church.