Sunday, 16 July 2017

Saturday 15th July 2017

Wyoming: T minus 28 days.

And with having done shopping the evening before, we could relax in the morning, have a lazy breakfast before, and it might come as no surprise, but driving to mid-Kent to do some orchid chasing. It was in the balance whether we would go, as the forecast was for overcast weather all day, but it had improved by morning, so took a chance and we were rewarded with sunshine at least at The Larches when I was snapping the BLH.

One hundred and ninety two You know the route by now: along the Alkham Valley then up the M20 to Maidstone, and then turning up Detling Hill before turning off from the busy main road and into a quiet lane, a far removed from the hustle and bustle of a Saturday morning imaginable. It was just nine in the morning, the sun had broken through, and the temperature was rising, but we were the only people about. So, I get the camera and big tripod from the book, and we take the short walk down the down to the clearing.

Broad Leaved Helleborine Epipactis helleborine Passing Eurostars could be heard thundering nearby a few times and hour, but other than that, it was just the sounds of nature. And a meadow full of plants with dozens of butterflies busy feeding and basking. I could have stopped to chase a few, but with the weather not expected to stay bright for long, I press on crossing the four hundred metres of the clearing to where the Broad Leaved Helleborines started.

Broad Leaved Helleborine Epipactis helleborine The ones that were partially open two weeks back were already going to seed, but the rest were pretty much in their prime, and some of them the largest and most vigorous spikes I have seen. And then there are the colour variations: from pale pink to rose to red and then to almost dark brown.

Broad Leaved Helleborine Epipactis helleborine I get the tripod out, and get on with the shots, recording as many as I can, but concentrating on the colour extremes and the densiflora spikes, which were just stunning.

Broad Leaved Helleborine Epipactis helleborine Along the path, yet more spikes were unfurling and opening, and will be fabulous in a week or so, especially a group of nearly ten spikes of the darkest flowered spikes worth the trip on their own. I snap a few more, but am done here. I guess this will be our last visit here this season, it has been spectacular compared to last year, and a reminder that the end of the season can be full of colour too.

Broad Leaved Helleborine Epipactis helleborine We walk back to the car, and from there is a five minute drive up the hill to Stockbury and to check on the spikes beside the road of the reserve. I still harboured hopes that they might not be BLH and be something rarer say, a Narrow Lipped or two, but with three of the four spikes open, and all were clearly Broad Leaved. Although, much smaller a delicate than their cousins down the hill.

Broad Leaved Helleborine Epipactis helleborine The lane has been closed due to fly tipping, and people dumping stolen cars which are then set alight. The road itself is buried under layers of rubbish, and yet a few feet away, nature thrives, even in deep undergrowth.

Broad Leaved Helleborine Epipactis helleborine The final call is back at Braham to check on the Violet Helleborines.

The wood is quiet now, and dark even under the canopy that has been thinned out. Not many people come here this time of year, which is fine by me. We park on the other side of the wood, to take in some different sights and plants: one I did see was Wood Woundwort, a pinch of its leave released the telltale pungent smell. I also encouraged Jools to do the same, without telling her about the bad smell released.

Further on, up the chalk down and under the high canopy of ancient beech trees we find three groups of Violets, and sadly, still none of them are out. I was disappointed, but then, it means we will have to come back at least one more time to see them in flower.

Broad Leaved Helleborine Epipactis helleborine After snapping them, we walk over the top of the down, past ancient filt mines, that or craters from misplaced wartime munitions, I suppose. We were looking for Ghosts. As Jools pointed out, looking for a needle in a haystack when you know there is no needle. But then, no walk is ever wasted; we see fungi, and other plants, without anything Ghost-like to set my pulse racing.

We arrive home in time to see the Tour, and for me to prepare lunch. I make two potato bread rolls to go with the insalata caprese. Actually, the bread went well with the cheese and tomatoes, meaning we were full by the end of the meal. Which also meant, with the pint I had with lunch, I would struggle to stay awake all afternoon as Le Tour made its way between mountain stages, and I tried to keep my eyes open.

Come 5, Chris Froome was back in the Yellow Jersey, and all seemed right again.

Seeing as the tapas last week seemed to go down well, we had to same again last night, along with some chips made by yours truly, and that all went down very well indeed.

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