Sunday, 16 April 2017

Saturday 15th April 2017

Easter Saturday

Thanks to the modern world of the interwebs, I can find out about the latest findings before planning the day of photography ahead. That and the weather of course. I find out from the Kent Butterfly group that the Duke of Burgundy were on the wing and in what was called as "mid-Kent", Lady Orchids were at least partly open. And it so happens that the best Lady orchid site is also where the Dukes are found, so it seemed a no-brainer to go there. After checking the weather, I see that sunny intervals were expected for a couple of hours from ten.

I know it's Easter and people like to go away on their holibobs, but the queues seen on the A20, mile after mile of trucks lined up waiting in Operation Stack, and cars and cars with caravans filing past trying to get onto a ferry. The trucks were lined up almost all the way to Folkestone, a good four or fives miles, but for us, heading away from the port, we had a clear road.

One hundred and three We go up Stone Street, going most of the way up before turning off to Chartham and then down Penny Pot Lane. Yes, you read that right.

Denge wood is huge, and has no roads leading into it, other than forestry tracks, so the orchid/butterfly hunter has to park on the outskirts of it, and walk in. Which, isn't a bad thing, as a walk in the countryside or woods is never wasted, is it?

Leaving the car behind, we wander down the track, soon losing sight of the car as we turn to the left and the track gets lost among the trees. The trees are full of birds, mostly Tits of various kinds, maybe even a Marsh, but if I'm honest, that is just a guess. All along side the track, plants are either flowering or growing like crazy. Some of them I know, most I have no idea of their names.

A walk in the woods Sadly, above us, the sky is covered with cloud, meaning that with the breeze, it would be too cold for butterflies, so no Dukes. But we would still look. And once inside the reserve, we see the first rosettes of the Lady Orchids, but find them smaller and without spikes than the ones we have seen either at Stockbury of Yockletts.

I am disappointed, I had soped to see flowering spikes, and so to find them so far behind was a real let down. Indeed, most spikes are so small, they cannot be seen among the other vegetation. I had hoped for so much more.

A walk in the woods At the far end of the site, it was clear it was too cool and breezy for butterflies. We take a seat and see if the weather is going to clear. Looking west i see yet more dark clouds coming, so decide to move on. We retrace our steps back to the track, then through the woods. Needless to say, when we were within a hundred yards of the car, the sun came out, and I was tempted to turn back round. But there would be other times to see the Duke.

We drive through Stelling Minis to Park Gate Down, I would normally hide it's name, but when it is just one of three location in the county, and the only public one, for seeing Monkey Orchids, its a bit obvious where were going.

On the way I call in at the village shop in Stelling to get something to eat; a couple of sausage rolls and Bounty bars, then drive on to the down, taking in a few narrow lanes cut into the chalk, through woodland and up steep downs until we came to the lay by beside the reserve.

Sunshine After finding a place to sit down, I go on into the reserve to look for orchids, and much to my surprise I find many Early Purple already out, most small examples due to its exposed location, but still, this was a surprise. In the 2nd paddock, I look for the Monkey rosettes, and find a couple, so stop to photograph them. A couple of friends are writing a guide, and need shots of all stages of the lifecycle of each species.

Monkey Orchid Orchis simia Further on I look for Fly, but fail to find one, even though I know there are many there, but the Greater Butterfly are found, and are well advanced, and right at the back near to the woods is the single Lady rosette.

Greater Butterfly Orchid Platanthera chlorantha I walk back to Jools, and together we go back to the car. The forecast was for the thick cloud all afternoon, so seeing a sky full of fluffy clouds and bright sunshine was a surprise. And that is the way it stayed for most of the afternoon, though we did go home for lunch, and to allow me to prepare the steak for dinner. Preparation is everything.

We go back via the A2 so to avoid the traffic going to the port, and allow us to call in at a corner shop to get some eggs. We arrive home dead on half twelve, allowing me to listen to all the football. Almost like I planned it, but it was pure chance.

That night once the football had finished, I boil some potatoes that I would fry up later, then cook the steak, mushrooms, bringing it all together so we can sit down to eat at half seven.

And that was your day; orchids, football and steak. Just how I like it.

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