Being helped to discover a Common Twayblade orchid

I joined Bernard Baverstock, chairman of the Camberley Natural History Society, and allround knowledeable guy on flora and fauna, on a morning walk over the local heathland. The aim of the walk was so that he could point out to me the Common Twayblade orchids that I’d signally missed seeing in the dozens of my orchid spotting walks.

Here’s what Surrey Wildlife Trust say about it, in which they note it’s easily overlooked. By gum, that’s true.

The Common twayblade is a medium-sized orchid that can be easily overlooked despite being one of our commonest species. Common in the woodlands, scrub and grasslands of chalky soils, its flower spike carries a very loose cluster of yellow-green flowers that are not as showy as some of the other, more exotic-looking orchids. It is in bloom from May to July.

Here are photos of Bernard pointing out the Common Twayblade orchid, and a closer view of the plant. Thank you Bernard, I’m a happy soul now.

Bagshot’s mini-retail park adorned with lavender

Yesterday I was the driver taking my dear wife to Waitrose in Bagshot for a small shopping of essential items.

Turning into Waterers Way from the A30 is to be greeted by clusters of lavender in full bloom. Such a pleasing sight, made all the better with them being bathed in sunshine. The lavender planting extents into the car park. Definitely a successful planting plan, where so often such public spaces are often untended.

Naturally, I followed Bernard’s advice on spotting wild orchids: UPDATED

UPDATE: Do read Bernard’s comment. He says my photo is not a Twayblade. Oh dear, I’m going take him up on his offer of a guided walk.

Yesterday, for my daily constitutional walk, I followed Bernard Baverstock’s advice and went looking for a wild orchid variety that I’ve not previously recognised. I’ve already said how I feel humbled when expert advice points out something that I’ve missed, especially as I’ve been studying the local wild orchids for months, and months.

On my way to search for the Common twayblade – Neottia ovata,  I encountered a cyclist on a very narrow path through the heather. Part of today’s social distancing fun, we offered each other priority of travel. It was easier for me to step off the path into the heather. We got into conversation, as one does, with Mark – that’s his name, saying that he reads this blog. Much enjoyable chat followed. It’s always an odd experience to meet one of my readers.

Anyway, I found the Common twayblades, at least I think I did. Didn’t spent long studying them as a dirty big black cloud began raining on me. I’ll have to go back again to take some better photos. Here’s my, not great quality, photo.

Knowing you’re just an amateur

I’ve always known that I’m an amateur at all the things that occupy my interest. Here are a couple of examples.

I’m a member of the Milestone Society, dedicted to researching and caring for milestones and similar wayside artefacts. It’s when I attend the Society’s AGM or regional meetings that I come across people who’ve written books on the topic and have spent a lifetime tracking down milestones. I’m humble in their presence.

Now for the other example. You’ll maybe have got a tad bored with my interest in wild orchids. I’ve learned a lot about them over the years, though not in a deeply botanical way, just curiosity about nature that’s close to me. Bernard Baverstock, the noted Camberley naturalist, [Chair of the Camberley Natural History Society] generously followed up on my suggestion that a heathland walk on the track in Lightwater would reveal the spledour of wild orchids.

Bernard commented on my blog article, with,

Tim, I was up that way today, for a reptile survey. I did not notice the pyramidal orchid but I did see that there were a few Twayblades. I am not sure if you have mentioned them before, they are not the most spectacular flowers but are interesting. Most of the plants have not flowered because of the dry weather but the best are at SU 92167 61159.

So, my months of scouring the trackside verges did not uncover another wild orchid variety, the Common Twyblade (Neottia ovata), only a true naturalist would know what they’re looking at. Ah well, an excuse for another heathland walk, with my eyes more wide open that before, and Bernard has told where to look. Thank you Bernard.

Going for a countryside walk, don’t miss the wild orchids

If you’re wanting a walk in the countryside, don’t miss out on the seeing the wild orchids alongside the track that runs alongside Red Road and near the Bisley and Pirbright Ranges.

The wild orchids are abundant on the track leading upto Hangmoor Hill, you might be able to spot the solitary Pyramidal orchid. It’s worth looking out for.

Please indulge me, I’ve found another wild orchid variety

My searching for wild orchids, hopefully is not an obsession, although it may seem to you to be so.

Yesterday, after spending lots of time, sitting at my computer, writing yesterday’s article on wild orchids, my daily excersise consisted, you’ve guessed it, of an early evening walk looking at the wild orchids of the heathland track in Lightwater.

There being so abundant I bent down to give a number of them a closer look. Having done so I carried on the track towards home and away from the orchids. With my orchid spotting senses heightened, lo and behold, I spied what I thought was a pryamidal orchid. On closer inspection, that’s what it was. Here’s my photo of Pryamidal orchid – (Anacamptis pyramidalis).

I promise no more about orchids. The next subject will probably be about steam engines and railways.

A challenging couple of weeks, ultimately successful

What have I been upto this last couple of weeks? Well, a combination of outdoor wild orchid spotting, photographing, and time on my computer trying hard to identify the orchids I’ve seen.

There have been four places in Lightwater that I’ve visited to espy wild orchids; around the lake and islands in what was formerly part of Paddock Wood Girls Fishing School; the ditches and edges of the heatland track that runs alongside Red Road and near to the fence of the Bisley and Pirbright firing ranges; Folly Bog, the low lying boggy area that lies closer to the ranges fence line below the heathland track; and lastly to the meadow area in Lightwater Country Park.

While visiting the Country Park meadow over the weekend, someone stopped me and enquired what I was doing study the orchids. “Is it your hobby?” he asked. I’ve never really thought about it like that. On thoughtful consideration, I answered yes.

The orchids to be seen are all of the genus Dacytorhiza. It’s here where the challenge lies, to identify the orchids have I been seeing, which is something that has consumed me for the last five years or more. [Type orchids in the search box of this blog, and you’ll see all my blog posts about them].

At the end of this article I’ll give the bibliography of my sources, meanwhile here are the words from A beginner’s vegetative guide to orchids of the British Isles about the Dacytorhiza genus, which will gives the background to my challenge.

Dactylorhiza – The ‘Marsh’ and ‘Spotted’ orchids – BEWARE: This genus is, without doubt, the most difficult orchid group to try and accurately identify in the British Isles which is exacerbated by their rampant hybridisation. These hybrids are often fertile meaning they are able to hybridise between themselves and their original parents (back-crossing) resulting in a ‘swarm’ of plants with all manner of different characteristics. The most common hybrids are those between Northern Marsh or Southern Marsh orchids and Common Spotted or Heath Spotted orchids – these tend to be large (a feature of hybrids called ‘hybrid vigour’) with spotted leaves and are intermediate between both parents. However, to add to the confusion, there are a whole range of named subspecies and variants of ‘pure’ species which can look very similar to such hybrids. It is therefore very important to remember that there is only so far one can go with trying to identify this genus to species level. Usually some prior knowledge of habitat and location can help. Typically however, you can
spot ‘pure’ and hybrid individuals once you become familiar with the wider population of a specific area but this requires some experience. Despite these problems, recognising a member of this genus in the field is fairly straightforward.

Getting down on my hands and knees, taking good clear photos has been the key to success. I can report I’ve seen three kinds of wild orchids and numerous of their hybrids, and possibly a fourth. Below are the photos of each kind, of which I’m fairly certain as to their type, and their location. Note: I’m not entirely confident I’m correct. That’s life.

  1. Early Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza incarnata): near the stream running through Folly Bog
  2. Common spotted-orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii): at the edge of the lake by former Paddock Wood School, and close to the edge of the heathland track
  3. Heath spotted-orchid (Dactylorhiza maculata): at the edge of the heathland track, generally near the heather areas
  4. Possibly a Southern Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa): in the meadow area in Lightwater Country Park.

Bibliography

Clouds offer a pleasing change to clear blue skies

Don’t get me wrong, please. I love a clear blue sky as much as everyone. Here in Lightwater they are especially to be enjoyed with an absence of aircraft condensation trails, which have blighted our skies for many years.

Dappled shade in warm weather is what I most enjoy. One can lie back in a chair and watch the clouds roll by, and perhaps think about what they are, and what they pressage.

Some years ago I wrote about about Appreciating clouds – I’m somewhat staggered to see that this blog post was 10 years ago, and yet I thought of it as being much more recent. A very odd feeling, I can tell you. Anyway, before that Christmas years ago I mentioned my love of clouds to my family, and whadda you know my Christmas presents were books on clouds – The Cloud Book – How to understand the Skies, and The Met Office Pocket Cloud Book, and Eyewitness Companions Weather.

I do try hard to recognise the cloud types in our skies, such that I rush to my books on clouds to help identify them. It’s fun for an old bloke like me. I am loathe to say with any degree of certainty, especially in company, what the clouds are in the sky, for two reasons, one failing to properly remember what I thought I learned reading books on clouds, and more importantly thinking that in the company with whom I am there’s bound to be someone with expert knowledge.

It was cloudy a couple of days ago, a reason to get out my books on clouds. By the time I’d studied the books to help identify a cloud, they’d pesky well moved or changed shape. Ah, well here are the clouds I photographed on Tuesday 26th May, with my choice of cloud type. I think they were high clouds, over 20,000 ft and of Cirrus types. Dear readers, am I correct?

Wild orchid varietes fare differently in our heathland

My Monday bank holiday treat was a walk in our local heathland to see the progress of the wild orchids.

A glorious sunny day for my walk. Dressed in shorts to keep cool, I knew that to venture too far from the heathland track meant encounters with gorse, broom, and heather, some more spiky than others.

The first plant I encountered was a Rhododendron ponticum in full bloom. I recognise its purple/lilac flowers are a lovely sight. It is, however, a bit of a thug. Classified as an invasive plant, it shades the gound beneath it, not allowing smaller native wild flowers any room, and its flowers are toxic to some native bees. All in all, it needs to be removed.

Next was a much happier experience, I spied the Heath Spotted Orchids by the side of the heathland track in Lighwater. They were not as abundant as they were last year, probably because of the lack of rain. Why are they called Heath Spotted Orchids? If you look at their leaves it becomes obvious, they are covered in dark blotches.

Not one to resist and adventure, I ventured through the spiky undergrowth to get down to Folly Bog, as I wanted to see the progress of the Early Marsh Orchids. How my mood was lifted to see the Early Marsh Orchids in bloom, and more abundant than I’d possibly imagined. Searching for them in previous years I’ve found them in strictly limited numbers. I’ll be visiting them again later today, possibly venturing further into the boggy area.

Finally, I saw just a couple of sundew plants – small insect eating plants that like damp surroundings. Here are my photos.

Following new rules for my daily walk

The rules for the coronavirus containment say I can now drive to a place where I can take excercise.

My exercise routine is generally to take a walk in the countryside, where I can enjoy nature and so on. That countryside excercise has mostly been walks over our local heathland. Now that I can go further afield, I drove to Chobham to walk in its 58 acres of Water Meadows SANG. I parked in the car park – two hours free.

Don’t laugh, I know going to Chobham from Lightwater isn’t what you might call a long way away. It did mean, though, that I walked in the Water Meadows for the first time. Surprising you might think, never having been to the Water Meadows before. I do have the Brentmoor Heath, Folly Bog and Hangmoor Hill on my doorstep.

Anyway, let’s get to my Water Meadows experience. It’s far more extensive than I’d imagined. The sign says the meadows are 23.5 hectacres – can’t say that conjures up a size in my mind, but 58 acres, now you’re talking.. Good flat walking, the Mill Bourne stream with a number of bridges to enjoy, nice wide open meadows. All round a pleasant place to excercise. Here are a few photos,