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.


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.

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.

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.

Wild orchids emerging, though sadly not abundant

Late yesterday afternoon I ventured from Hangmoor Hill down into Folly Bog.

I did find some Heath Spottted Orchids alongside the heathland track on Hangmoor hill, though in far less abundant numbers than in previous years. Also, those that I saw were far less vigourous in their growth than those that I’ve seen at this time of the year in the past.

Must say that the bog isn’t as boggy as it has been in the past, and so I got deep into the bog. Obviously, standing in one spot for too long means sinking into the bog. Also, as cattle have trampled the area, creating humps and hollows makes it difficult to negotiate. – a soggy shoe resulted.

Enough about the bog. On a more positive note, I did find emerging Early Marsh Orchids in Folly Bog. Again, not as abundant or as vigourous as in previous years. Here are my phone camera images, not geat photos I have to admit, at least they’re a record.


Now for the bad: No Early Marsh Orchids in Folly Bog

Dear readers you will know my odd obsession on finding, and identifying wild orchids in our local heathland. Look HERE if you want to see more of my reports on local wild orchids.

Late yesterday afternoon I went out to scour the boggy areas in Folly Bog to continue my search for Early Marsh Orchids, and to check on the one I feel sure I saw a week ago. Could I find it? No, I jolly well couldn’t. Nor could I find any others, and I assure you I did spend quite a bit of time looking.

I’m disappointed I didn’t find any. I will keep on looking. Here’s my photo of an Early Marsh Orchids taken on 29th May 2017.