With the EU referendum only weeks away it’s now feared that another kind of immigration crisis may have developed in – of all places – Penarth’s tranquil St Augustine’s Church Yard.
Here, the annual crop of spring bluebells is now in full flower – but some local gardeners believe there are signs that Penarth’s original wild bluebell may be becoming hybridised with a continental variety….from Spain .
Wild Bluebells of various hues flowering at St Augustines (Photos Sian Goldsworthy)
Bluebells – real British ones – have been growing on Penarth Head for the best part of a 1,000 years – long before the present William Butterfield church was built.
Most of them are what are called the “Hyacinthoides non-scripta” (British) bluebells – the ‘real deal’ – the genuine article – but some of the flowers currently blooming the churchyard display traits of their paler Iberian counterparts, the “Bluebell hispanica.”
The original St Augustine’s Church (see above) was erected between 1186 and 1191 on the highest point of Penarth Head after Osbert de Penard granted a swathe of manorial land to William Saltmarsh (Bishop of Llandaff, Prior of Bristol and Lord of the Manor of Penarth) for the use of the ‘Black Canons’ – the austere order of monks who worked the headlands .
In every one of the 830 years since then, British bluebells have blossomed every spring at St Augustine’s churchyard – but now that could be set to change
This year’s crop of bluebells appear to show that the pure-bred British stock may be becoming hybridised with the hardier Spanish variety. The British bluebells are a usually mid to dark blue and have a bell-like flower that hangs down – like a bell. They’re also scented.
The Spanish bluebells however can be a much lighter colour and their flowers don’t hang down in quite the same way as the real thing – and there’s virtually no scent.
…As to which species will prevail in Penarth – we may have to wait another 1,000 years to find out.