The Peel family, who own the Fritillary field, formerly lived in Ducklington. They regularly invited people to come and see the flowers in bloom and although they have left the village, they allow and encourage Ducklington Church to continue the tradition on Fritillary Sunday each year. They are interested in conservation, and manage the field traditionally. In the 1980’s, the Church, with a small but growing congregation, was faced with major expenses for repairs and conservation work, and began to use the occasion for fundraising. This gradually developed, so now there are ploughman’s lunches, cream teas, sales of home made preserves and a large plant stall, including home grown fritillaries. Our handbell ringers perform in the church and the Ducklington Morris Dancers, outside.
In recent years we have come to realise that the fragile beauty of the flowers in the field is a potent image of our beautiful and threatened planet. We have found ourselves wanting to share this understanding with our visitors. Christians believe that God cares for the whole creation, and that this gives us a duty of care for what He made. The fritillaries also remind us that Jesus told us not to worry about our lives but to see “the lilies of the field”, which display their beauty without effort or anxiety, as evidence of God’s loving care.
THE FRITILLARY MEADOW
Fritillaries enjoy growing in damp meadows and used to be commonly found in the Thames Valley; indeed, the flowers used to be picked and sold in Oxford. This was in the days before World War II when the meadows were grazed from August to February and then left to grow for a hay crop in July. This gave the fritillaries the chance to grow, flower and shed their fully ripened seeds.This cycle is denied them by modern farming practices.
No artificial fertilisers were used which encouraged a great diversity of all meadow plants. Ducklington is not the only place where fritillaries survive. The meadows at Magdalen College in Oxford and North Meadow National Reserve near Cricklade are better known and more densely flowered. But Ducklington is the only place where visitors can walk among the flowers; it is this close contact which makes Fritillary Sunday so special for very many people. A leaflet with information on the Fritillary (fritillaria meleagris) is available at the field, as is a list of the 72 different plant species recorded when the field was surveyed some years ago.
WHAT DO WE DO WITH YOUR MONEY?
The money you give us is paid into the church fabric fund and this is set aside for repair, conservation and improvement work to the church. St. Bartholomew’s, like many churches, looks pretty strong and permanent, but this appearance can be misleading. Old buildings are all the time developing minor problems; roof tiles fall; there are leaks around old windows; exterior carved stone becomes weather damaged and needs replacing;walls need repointing. And there are the occasional major costs such as re-roofing (every 50 years or so). These are determined every 5 years by a comprehensive architectural inspection.
The church building is not only for the church congregation who love and enjoy it and care for it but also for the community who assume it will be there for baptisms, weddings, and funerals. And, as a beautiful structure first built more than 900 years ago it is part of our history and heritage. Fritillary Sunday gives the opportunity for everyone to see its beauty, enjoy its atmosphere and play a part in ensuring that it endures for centuries to come.