Ah well, fell at first hurdle, though have remounted

I was already daunted in setting myself a new blogging task, of posting an image/painting every morning and evening. One of my dear readers was good enough to point out an error in my last blog post, in that I’d repeated an image.

Realising that the bar set by @HenryRothwell a high bar to match, such that I fell at the first hurdle. I gave myself the weekend off from blogging, no bad thing to keep away from the computer and stuff.

I’ve strolled over our local heathland, which is always good for clearing the mind, and decided I will continue with trying to find images to post morning and night.

Yesterday afternoon’s late heathland walk began like this,

in which, oddly, I encountered this,

and was pleased to see much invasive scrub having been removed.

Asking about Folly Bog and Heathland Maintenance Plan

You’ll undoubtedly know, from reading this blog, that I walk over the local heathland for fun and exercise. You’ll also know that I, on occasion, bemoan of its maintenance, probably because I neither know of the maintenance plan or have any understanding of the management priorities. Perhaps I’m being a bit hard on myself here.

The areas that I mostly walk are Folly Bog in Lightwater and Brentmoor Heath in West End. They are owned variously by Surrey Heath Borough Council, Surrey County Council or by the Ministry of Defence, and the management of this land is provided by Surrey Wildlife Trust. The area of these lands is shown within the area marked black in the map below

On my recent walks I’ve seen the results of maintenance work. Yesterday I encountered some contractors working for Surrey Wildlife Trust removing invasive species from Folly Bog. I, naturally, thanked them for their good work. However, I failed to ask them about their work plan, because I’m too much of a chatty soul. I even walked down into Folly Bog yesterday, it’s very wet and boggy – what did I expect!

On Hangmoor Hill there has been some substantial scrub clearance, alongside the fence to the military land and on Hangmoor Hill itself, which is good, as it’s another route down into the bog. All fine and dandy.

Yet, and it’s an important yet, the trackside ditches on Hangmoor Hill, where the wild orchids flower, remain uncleared, with the scrub taking over and crowding out the space for the orchids. Also, the scrub remains covering the four bronze-age bowl barrows in Brentmoor Heath, making identification of their existence near impossible.

So, I’m resolved to speak to Surrey Wildlife Trust to ask for sight of their Heathland Maintenance Plan. Here are some photos of the recent work done to the area.


Writing about spotting wild orchids

Bear with me please. I know I’ve written too much about the joys and frustrations of spotting wild orchids. This article and my next article on the topic will very likely be my last until May of next year when I look out for their arrival.

All Saints’ Church Roundabout, our local parish and village magazine, was kind enough to include my article on the joys of spotting wild orchids. Here it is, with the accompanying photos at the end.

Wild orchids in and around Lightwater are, mostly, easy to spot, while not large, when in flower they have an erect flower spike up to 20 inches tall [50cm] and at the base the leaf area is about 6 inches in width [15cm]. The flower spikes vary in colour between pale pink, to deep purple, and occasionally white holding between 20 and 70 flowers. It’s a joy to see them in flower.

During the months of May, June, and July, wild orchids will accompany your walks in parts of Lightwater. The local places where you can see them are; in the meadow area in Lightwater Country Park with wild flowers; around the small lake, and on its small island in the housing estate in Ling Drive off Briar Avenue; and in vigourous abundance at the edges of the heathland track running alongside Red Road.

We’re close to the heathland track; I’ve regularly walked the track, and have spent hours hunting for wild orchids and even more time on the computer attempting to identify each variety. The habitat on the heathland track is ideal for a wide variety of wild orchids, while heathland soil is acidic; the limestone scalping’s used as the track surface provides the mixed habitat in which they seem to flourish. If you know of more places locally where to find wild orchids, do let me know.

I’ve been at what I call ‘orchid spotting’ for many years, it’s only this year that I’ve encountered new varieties, and also learned the identification of most of the orchids. The Covid lockdown meant I’ve not walked far from home. This year Bernard Baverstock, chairman of Camberley Natural History Society, joined me on a walk, during which he showed me a small orchid I’d not noticed in all my years of investigating. Reminds me that I’m an amateur in orchid spotting, and there’s always someone with greater knowledge. I’ll be waiting for next year’s wild orchid show; I recommend that you should venture across Red Road to see them next spring and early summer.

In the photos are one with Bernard Baverstock, a gorgeous small Pyramidal orchid, a common spotted orchid, and a display of them along the track edge.

Avoiding the Belted Galloway cattle’s plip plops

Belted Galloway cattle are back in the heathland and Folly Bog in Lightwater, doing good work in munching invasive scrub.  I first spotted them in Folly Bog, and evidence of their presence was on the heathland track.

They’ve moved away from the boggy area and can now be seen chomping in the undergrowth on Hangmoor Hill. They are friendly cattle, and are mildly curious about you when walk past them only a few feet away. They are much more interested in eating.

Here are a few photos of them, taken a few days ago in the boggy area, and late yesterday afternoon on Hangmoor Hill

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.

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.

Wild orchids get room to flower

This week I walked on the heathland track the borders Red Road in Lightwater, and which looks down over Folly Bog. It’s not something I’ve done of late, so was pleased to see invasive trackside vegetation cut down. I’d have cut more down, but hey, what’s been done will make life better for the wild orchids, as you can see from my photos. The wild orchids appear on the trcakside verges and ditches.

It’s great that in the process of cutting back the invasive plants, a new easier access to Folly Bog has been created. Gone is the difficulty of fighting may way through vegetation to get down to the boggy area to espy the progress of sundews, mosses, and Early March Orchids. All in all, I’m looking forward to spring and summer in the local heathland.

A track surface made up of scalpings and junk

The heathland track alongside the Bisley and Pirbright Ranges from Lightwater to Deepcut is a regular walk of mine. I enjoy the distant view of London from Chobham Ridges, and just as much the seasonal changes to the flora and and fauna.

On one walk I noticed a piece of junk buried in the track, and on subsequnent walks I noticed more and more buried junk. Yesterday I photographed some of the buried junk, and thought you might like to see it. These five photos are the most obvious pieces of junk.

The surface of the track is mostly scalpings of one sort or another. Occasionaly there are exposed areas of bricks and crushed ceramics.

Some say they’ve gone fishing, I say I’ve gone orchid hunting

No, I’ve not gone fishing; I’ve gone orchid hunting.

I’ve managed to do a spot of wild orchid hunting in the local heathland and bogs, as is my wont. It’s a bit like stamp collecting, always hoping to identify a treasure in a pile of stamps.

One key difference, I can’t collect the wild orchids, other than by photographing them. The pleasure, or is it pain, I don’t know which, is getting out the orchid identification sources and then expanding my photos on my computer for comparison. A stamp catalogue is easier to use. Ah, well, at least I got out into the heathland and the bogs.

The good news is that the wild orchids are flourishing alongside the heathland track next to Red Road in Lightwater, and here was me being overly concerned about their late arrival. I don’t think they’re quite as vigourous as in previous years – more photo comparison needed to prove this. The Spotted Orchids are variable, so will take time for proper identification. Meanwhile, there’s more good news in that the Early Marsh Orchids in Folly Bog are also flourishing. Here are my photos for you to enjoy.

First the good: Dartford Warblers seen in local heathland

Delighted to say I saw a couple of Dartford Warblers in the heather in Hangmoor Hill, just the other side of Red Road in Lightwater.

How did I recognise them, since they’re on the Amber List of endangered birds? Well, they are known to inhabit this area. They like heaths, and feed of insects. They can be seen on top of gorse bushes, and seen flitting around in the heather looking for insects. What really identifies them is their long tail and habit, that’s how I recognised the pair. Did I see their colour? no I didn’t. Even though they were close to me, all I saw was they appearing dark brownish/grey to me. Photo courtesy of Dean Eades BirdMad in Wikipedia.