Leiston Ivy

The ruins of Leiston Abbey lie a few miles to the north of the small town of Leiston on the roads to East Bridge and the famous RSPB nature reserve at Minsmere. The ragged ruins sit in neatly mown grasslands and adjacent to old buildings that are now a music school.

Under a grey and uninspiring sky, the abbey hides in the rolling landscape of coastal Suffolk; a collection of old walls and broken arches. The abbey was first built nearly a thousand years ago on the marshes near Minsmere but, after regular bouts of flooding, the abbey was dismantled and the stones and timbers moved inland and then reconstructed on the present site.

Butterflies, including painted ladies and graylings, warm themselves on the south facing walls near an overgrown hedgeline that shelters a host of insects. Graylings are butterflies of dry landscapes and perfectly camouflaged for sitting on sandy heaths and lichen-covered stone walls.

Ivy-leaved toadflax also has a hold on some of the crumbling walls. The scientific name is Cymbalaria muralis or ‘like a cymbal of the wall’ which seems pretty accurate. It was introduced to the UK probably many times, most notoriously in boxes of Italian marble statues sent to Oxford. Consequently, it has a variety of names associated with where is has been found growing in abundance: Oxford ivy, Kenilworth ivy and coliseum ivy; as well as mother of thousands, pennywort and wandering sailor. Perhaps ‘Leiston Ivy’ may be added to the list.

Here is the closely related Cymbalaria microcalyx alba on the limestone cliffs of the Taygetos Mountains in southern Greece in bright, evening light.

Leave a Reply