Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Saturday 8th April 2017

Britain sits under a large area of high pressure, and as it moves off east, winds turn to the south, drawing up warm air from Southern France, meaning it is going to as warm as a summer day on Sunday, and nearly as warm on Saturday, with clear blue skies, unbroken sunshine. In other words, perfect orchid chasing weather.

As the upcoming week is a traveling week, I have to collect the hire car first thing, so after coffee and the usual morning stuff, Jools drops me off down at the car hire office to collect the keys and paperwork, then drive home. As I leave the port, the Easter travel is building, Townwall Street a solid wall of trucks nose to tail waiting to get into the port. I overtake some coming the other way as we climb Jubilee Way, already 30mph over the speed limit as I hit the national speed limit zone, accelerating as the road climbs towards the roundabout at the Duke of Yorks.

Jools has been shopping, so after a quick breakfast we are out, first of all to Kingsdown to check on the Early Spiders there. Jools wanted to go into Deal for some shopping, so drops me off, so I can take my time looking for them, and snapping what was there.

After the cold winds that blew through March and April last year, stunting and windburning the spikes to the point they failed to open properly, even with the lack of rain, the seven rosettes I found are in good condition, trying to put spikes up, but not that much further advanced than last week.

My eye is caught by a group of pure white bluebells among the usual blues, just sitting there looking all white. These are quite rare, even for such a common wild flower, so it is always worth getting some shots.

Early Spider Orchid Ophrys sphegodes I go back to the road to wait for Jools but I am enthralled by a group of House Sparrows in an unkempt hedge, just bustling about, collecting nesting material. I watch them for 5 minutes, they observe me, and as long as I don't get any closer, they carry one. Seems like everyone is busy at this time of year.

Jools comes back, so we can go to the next location: Waldershare.

Waldershare is just outside Dover, about a mile from the old folk's place, but a million miles away. There is an old church, now in the care of the Church Conservation Trust, more than worth a visit. The church and wood itself are easily missed from the main road, just a simple brown sign points the way, and down a rough track there is a parking space beside the tumble down lych gate.

Through the Ramsons If you walk through the churchyard, through the kissing gate and down the long path, cross the old avenue of tree, you come to an ancient wood, which is carpeted with Ramsons, aka wild garlic. We love it there, while elsewhere there are wood anemones and bluebells, and all of it just to ourselves.

Whitebells or white bluebells? Sadly, the Ramsons were not in flower yet, but will be in a couple of weeks, and will be a fine sight. The leaves are good to be used for cooking though.

From there we go to Lydden to look at the colony of Man Orchids. It is mighty early, but when I was there two weeks ago, rosettes had formed. We have to park in the central reservation of the old trunk road, then clamber over a rickety stile, but in the meadow, I found the orchids, now going yellow, I think due to a lack of rain. As I have said before, the ground is bone hard due to lack of rain, and on downs and on the dunes, orchids there might be stunted or fail.

Man Orchid Orchis anthropophora Back into the car, and along the A2 to the next site at Barham, going from being in the middle of traffic coming from the port, then turning off at driving down a quiet lane, just wide enogh for a single car, the peacefulness of the countryside all around us, and the hum of e traffic getting more distant.

Up the bridleway, lugging the camera gear, the bluebells have begun to open here, creating a carpet of blue on the side of the track and in the trees, stretching out as far as you could see. And sprinkled in among them were flashes of purple, spikes of Early Purples, now more in number with each passing day. Many are mal-formed or missing sepals and lips at all, maybe damage from slugs, but I think caused by lack of water. I get some shots, then look for the Lesser Butterfly rosettes, Jools is the one to find them, the four plants already putting up a spike.

Back down the track and over the road, I look for and find a single Townhall Clock plant, yes that's it#s common name. Each flower is just 5mm across, so it took some spotting, but I found the little bugger. Further up, scatted branches and limbs of felled trees will hamper this year's Lady and Twayblade show, but inbetween there are rosettes, and more coming again with each passing day. It seems a sad place this year, but then hopeful too, as someone is clearly managing it, and the orchids will thrive here in future years, and fungi will feat oon the timber, putting the goodness back into the soil, ensuring the circle of life carries on.

We call in at The Black Robin for a pint on the way back home. We could have waited, but it was a nice afternoon, and nothing better than a pint in a beer garden. Or would have been but a party of Yummy Mummies had decided to decamp from the private room they had booked and moved into the beer garden. Jools and I sit on a bench beside the dry bed of the Nailbourne and sup our drinks, then quickly retreat back to the car for the short drive home.

It is Saturday afternoon, the second day of the cricket season, but there is football still to be played. Always football to be played. And even with the poor run of results from City, I still care. We were playing Reading, who still are in the hunt for a play off place. We go one up after 5 minutes, two up after ten. Soon score a third and a forth. Six nil up after 40 minutes, and it seems the world has gone mad. In the end it finished 7-1, yes, another seven one, but this time in our favour. What does it all mean? Nothing probably, but still, the long suffering away fans had a great night on the club's tab at the end of season party.

And that was it for Saturday. I make breaded chicken with fresh new potatoes for dinner, perfect with a fresh cuppa, listening to Huey on the i player as darkness falls. Jools has a bonfire in her fire pit, but I have to watch highlights of the football, as its not every day your team put seven past a promotion chasing team. Oof.

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