Sunday, 16 April 2017



Over the next few months I will be orchid obsessed once again. I suppose this is about the 5th or 6 th year it has been thus. And so, you might be asking, why?

Orchids sound exotic, even if poundland now sells ornamental ones for a, well, pound. Probably. But the thought that something so exotic could grow here in Bonnie England was something of a surprise. It all began with a random comment from a friend who was taking us on a Flickr meet-cum-walk along the White Cliffs, saying offhandedly that in a few weeks this cliff edge would be full of orchids. This information I stored, and either the next year or maybe another year on, I decided to look for them.

Only, just as we were about to walk out the door, I thought I would consult with the interwebs, and it informed me that Samphire Hoe was the best location in the country for them, rather than the cliffs. And the parking was easier. So, instead of walking to the cliffs, we drove to Samphire Hoe. And after parking the car, we were walking towards the path, when I bumped into another photographer who asked if we were there for the orchids. When I said we were, he told us where to look, and if we liked those, then in a few weeks at another location, there would be Monkey Orchids to see.

We walked down the path, and after some looking, we saw the first flowering spike, then another. And another. And so on. I was hooked.

In a week I took Jools out to find the Monkey; if not the orchids out, at least where they would be. Luckily there was a village of the name, and after finding that, we drove there. Now, where was the site? I took the road out of the village, turned, and after going down a slope, through a wood, there is was on the right. There was even a picture of the Monkey Orchid on the information board.

I found other orchids there, and after returning several times, during May the Monkey finally came out. And thanks to the help and friendship of many people either at the sites or on the internet, I got information enabling me to see 28 Kent orchid species.

Each autumn I say, next year I will limit my time searching for orchids, just look for aberrations, or mutations and hybrids. But through the long dark months of autumn and winter, come the spring I just want to be out in the sunshine, scouring woods and downland for signs of orchid growth, or once found to see how the rosette and spike develop. Fact is, I enjoy the walk now as much as seeing the orchids. But the one thing I suppose I have to admit is that I don't see this obsession waning.

Just so you know.

This year, I hope to find another Kent rarity, the Burnt (Tip) orchid, last known on a chalk down just outside Dover.


In 2009, I was asked on Flickr to submit some shots for a group whose aim was to get a photograph of every Grade I and II* Listed building in England. After doing so, the admin asked if I would like to take on the county of Kent. I said yes, then saw the list of buildings. Hundreds of them. I mean hundreds. However, I like a challenge.

So, during the summer of 2009, I began to visit churches, I bought a reference book, so cherry picked the interesting churches. I say churches, because although the list of buildings has private, civic and religious buildings, photographing people's homes can be difficult, so for the most part I stopped doing that, instead concentrating on the parish churches in East Kent, then further afield.

I began to realise that village life isn't what it might be, as shops, pubs and other amenities close, the church is there be used for coffee mornings, village meetings, one even has a badminton court inside. The church is once again central to village life, and I sometimes get to meet the vicar or wardens at these churches, and find the story behind the building, and the people that make the parish work.

I also read the history not of just the church now, but the parish too, how at the beginning of the 19th century, many parts of Kent were very poor, and people surviving scraping a living anyway they could from the poor land that covers the chalk downland.

So April to August I do orchids, the rest of the years is churches. It gives me something to do on a weekend, traveling around the county, snapping, meeting people and sampling ales in the village pub, if possible. There are worse ways to spend your free time. And both obsessions are creating a database of information and images, which I think is worthwhile, I just need to think how so.

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