Follow in Nigel's Footsteps

Monday, 2 June 2014

Rare Orchids and Red Kites...

Thirty-two years ago last weekend, my brother @duncanharris5, our cousin the late Alan Bundy and myself made a very special trip to Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. Back then our rarest orchids were afforded the protection of secrecy and the only way you could find out where they were was if you knew the right people. Of course the 'right people' had to know you too, they wouldn't just tell anyone the whereabouts of a crippling Orchid! And so it was on 1st June 1982, we all met up with a renown Buckinghamshire botanist following a recommendation from the late, great John Keylock - Somerset botanist extraordinaire. 

We were taken into the (at the time) top secret Military Orchid (Orchis militaris) site and shown these wonderful plants up close and personal. We photographed them and we left. You would never have known we'd been there. This weekend we returned for an Open Day at the same site. They are still as mind blowing as I remember them being and still as rare, with only two British sites. But before we visited the Military Orchids we called in at the Monkey Orchid (Orchis simia) site overlooking the Thames, just as we did exactly 32 years ago. These equally stunning plants are found in only a few British sites. I make no apology for the length of this post, be warned!

Monkey Orchid


View from the Monkey Orchid reserve, simply beautiful.
Monkey Orchid: R. Harris
Monkey Orchid: R. Harris
Monkey Orchid: R. Harris
Monkey Orchid: R. Harris

Monkey Orchid: R. Harris
The site is also home to a rare Lady x Monkey orchid hybrid - it's only UK site.

Hybrid Lady x Monkey Orchid

Patch of Lady x Monkey hybrids
Goatsbeard: R. Harris
Sainfoin: R. Harris
Yellow Rattle: R. Harris
One of 30 Red Kites that day: R. Harris

Military Orchid

Now only two sites, this one in Buckinghamshire and one in Suffolk. There use to be a third site in Bucks on private land but those were sadly dug up by orchid collectors. The site is also host to many other lovely orchids and wild flowers. Many of the best spikes are protected from grazing animals by wire cages but still allow good views. The paths do get quite trampled though - a downside of having so many people looking at these wonderful plants


Military Orchid: R. Harris
Military Orchid: R. Harris
Military Orchid: R. Harris
Military Orchid: R. Harris
Military Orchid: R. Harris
Military Orchid: R. Harris

Fly Orchid: R. Harris
Fly Orchid: R. Harris
Fly Orchid: R. Harris
Fly Orchid: R. Harris

Greater Butterfly Orchid: R. Harris
Greater Butterfly Orchid, flower close-up: R. Harris
Common Twayblade: R. Harris
Rather scruffy White Helleborine: R. Harris
Fairy Flax: R. Harris

Common Milkwort, pink form: R. Harris
Grizzled Skipper: R. Harris
Garden Chafer: R. Harris

Common Spotted Orchid: R. Harris
And, the day was not over. En route back it seemed sensible to stop off at another well known site west of Salisbury to try for these stunning Burnt-tip orchids. What a show - one of my favourite orchids:

Burnt Tip Orchid: R. Harris
Burnt Tip Orchid: R. Harris
Burnt Tip Orchid: R. Harris
Burnt Tip Orchid: Duncan Harris
Burnt Tip Orchid: R. Harris
Burnt Tip Orchid: R. Harris
Bee Orchid: R. Harris
Bee Orchid: R. Harris
Fragrant Orchid: R. Harris
Common Gromwell: R. Harris
Houndstongue: R. Harris

There were a few decent butterflies on the wing too including a few mint Marsh Frits, Small Copper, Small Heath and loads of stunning Adonis Blues.

Adonis Blue: R. Harris
Adonis Blue: R. Harris
Marsh Fritillary: R. Harris

We also had at least one Quail calling and several Corn Buntings too. What a great place. All in all we had 13 species of orchid by the end of the trip, although we could have had more if we'd had more time.

I think Alan would have been looking down and smiling today - if he were still with us, I'm sure he would have come along to see them again too.

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