Nesting at St Andrew’s Church, Covehithe

St Andrew’s Church at Covehithe, Suffolk, is a smaller parish church sitting by the ruins of the larger medieval church which the seventeenth-century parishioners were unable or disinclined to maintain. The little thatched building set among those romantic ruins is rather moving. The broken tracery, the damaged corbels, the exposed niches, all suggest ecclesiastical decay.

Yet from the corner of my eye, as I wandered about and examined the masonry, I saw one section of wall that was all abuzz. Wasps were busily building a nest. A queen had determined that the old wall was a good place to build, and the workers duly went about eating wood in order to turn it into the special paper of which the nests are constructed. From this base, these waspy denizens will doubtless sally forth to irritate and annoy locals and picnicking tourists alike. This is a compulsory holiday experience, of course, but the wonderful way in which that nest blended into the old stonework set me thinking. Its ruinous state rendered the nest almost invisible; it looks just like another solitary, broken corbel.

Ruination and decay provide cover for all sorts of pests and menaces. I would not like to think how many rats scurry about those ruins, or even adders among the unmown grasses. Beware of letting slip your prayer life, your Bible study, your fellowshipping with the saints. Where formal ordinances and practices are allowed to decline, other dangers learn to make habitat in the cracks.