Monday, 3 July 2017

Sunday 2nd July 2017

At least the weather over the weekend followed a patter, and was a pattern which allowed the orchid photographer who wanted to, to lay in until a little after seven, mess around on the computer, make bacon butties, clean up and still be on the road as the clouds were clearing overhead.

And that is what happened. All cats fed, photos edited, breakfast made, ate and cleared up. Camera batteries charged and all locked and loaded. And no doubt where we were heading; Maidstone, and a certain clearing on a wooded down overlooking the Medway.

Sunday mornings on the roads can be fraught, but this time we had a pleasant run up to Ashford, enjoying the sunshine breaking through, and going just fast enough to not have to overtake too much. At Maidstone the traffic got heavier, but we were going on just one more junction, before turning up the link road between Kent's two motorways.

Halfway up is our turnoff, into a small village. Or more accurately half a village as the busy road splits it in half, and good look in trying to cross to the other half, even in a car. Anyway, parking is no problem, and after getting my camera and tripod out, we go to the start of the bridleway, now almost hidden from the road, and take the meandering path through the woods to the clearing. As the view opens up, we could see large amounts of Willow Herb swaying in the breeze, and elsewhere, a multitude of butterflies and moths, all on the hunt for some late breakfast.

We take the path across the clearing, passing by basking butterflies, as I am in the orchid zone, and tel myself I can get them on the way back. I can't, because it will be too hot by then and butterflies off their heads on nectar and sunshine and with energy to burn. THis I did not realise, but do now.

Away to the right at two isolated trees, and in the shadow of both there are orchids; Broad Leaved Helleborines, and although it is early, some are already beginning to open, and a couple almost fully out.

One hundred and eighty There are impressive orchids, over two feet tall and with spikes packed with flowers ready to pop. I get down to business, snapping the best of the flowering spikes and of groups of spikes maturing together. And there are dozens of spikes, and mixed in from open meadow in full sun, to complete shade. And on the path outside meadow, more spikes are beginning to unfurl and in a week or three would be a fine sight as these spikes are very dark.

Broad Leaved Helleborine Epipactis helleborine Turns out if there are only half a dozen spikes in flower, there are only so many shots you can take. Yes, it is true. And with a sigh, I realise I could do nore more, and as I alluded to earlier, the butterflies I hoped to snap on the return walk, were very much absence, apart from a very tatty Common Blue, so tatty I am in fact guessing it was a Common Blue, it being in such a bad state that the edges of the hind wings had worn away making identification difficult.

Broad Leaved Helleborine Epipactis helleborine It is a steep road, at least for an A road, but now has a 50 mph speed limit and a speed camera keeping the boy, and middle aged, racers to the speed limit, and just as the road levelled out, we turn off the busy road, and like magic the slip road in a handful of metres becomes a narrow country lane, lost in the trees to the main road as it winds its way up the down.

Broad Leaved Helleborine Epipactis helleborine We were here because a few visits ago I had spotted some orchid spikes growing, and had been wondering what they might grow to be. Last visit there were two or three spikes showing, but this time I lost count at 20, with the spikes seen previously nearly open. I had been harbouring the hope these might be something other than Broad Leaved Helleborines. And at first sight the spikes seemed sparse enough to be Green Flowered, and the buds themselves could even imagined to be Green Flowered. But, no doubt about those broad leaves (see what I did there?). But there were any spikes, and in a couple of weeks would be a great display.

After getting back in the car, I turn round, and as soon as we begin to drive back down the hill, I see a few spikes in the beam of the headlights. Clearly, these were not orchid, or if they were they would be Birdsnest, but even from the car they did not look right.

I reverse back, and go to investigate, and I guess (correctly), that they are Broomrapes, and probably Ivy Broomrape. And there are dozens of spikes, nesting in the undergrowth, but in groups of some in double figures. I think this is quite an unusual infestation, if it is an infestation. Broomrapes are parasites, leaching off a host plant (Ivy in this case) so not needing to chlorophyll itself, stealing what it needs from another plant.

Ivy Broomrape Orobanche hederae I get back in the car, and after some discussions, we think a visit to the Ferry Inn on Harty would be an ideal place to visit on a warm sunny afternoon. Maybe have a pint and a ploughman's? Sounds great.

Sheppy is an island in the Thames, once three islands in fact, and linked to the mainland by a bridge near to Sittingbourne, a new bridge now, carrying the road smoothly over the Swale until it ends at a roundabout on the island, at which point the usual narrow main roads carries on, winding over the rolling hills of the old islands, and across the farmland on what used to be seabed, or river bed. Or something. And there is at least one prison there too. And one of the two people who founded Rolls Royce, Rolls or Royce, was killed in the first aircraft accident. Marked by a nice statue, fact fans.

Nearly at Laysdown, we take the narrow road to Harty, which was unusually busy, but we're not in a hurry. As we go past the raptor viewing point, we see a Marsh Harrier sail by, only about a hundred yards away, and I realise I have left my telephoto at home. Bugger.

Near to the pub, there was a man in a day glo tabard asking: wedding show, clay pigeon shooting or pub? Pub. OK, he let us go on. But, the pub had been taken over by a marketing company or something. And there was the wedding show taking place outside the pub, and all food was for attendees of the wedding show. But we were told all tables were booked, but we could sit on the rubbish bins and food would be brought to us in an hur. Or something.

We have a drink, non-alcoholic for me, we watch the people arriving for the wedding show, or those leaving clutching brochures on flowers, favours or venues. Or all three.

We drink up and escape, getting off the island as quick as possible and returning home. Returning home via the garden centre at Alkham. And although just needing to buy a present for someone, we end up buying a couple of foxgloves and some alpines too.

Enough with the flowers already.

And we call in to see my friend Gary at his home in River, to talk photography, travel revolving around photography, wildlife and how to photograph it, and camera gear, in particular cameras.

His wife, Julie and my wife, Julie, try to get a word in edgeways, and left unchecked we could have talked all day, and in the end decide to go out for a meal in a couple of weeks, where we can swap more photography based larks and high jinks.

We go back home, realising we had not had lunch, and with it nearly four, meaning that even if I got cracking as soon as we walked in the door, dinner was an hour away. SO we have a brew, feed the cats then I start peeling the potatoes, chopping vegetables and chorizo sausage. Meaning dinner was fish and chips. No, chorizo hash.

That night, the season that just won't die came to an end; probably, as the pre-World Cup tournament in Russia, the Confederations Cup reached it's climax. I had missed all the games thus far, but thought, why not?

Well, because many of the German and players from Chile had been playing for 11 and a half months, looked like zombies, but heck, there are medals to be won. Not a bad game, Germany score against the run of play as we pundits say, and Chile miss an ever-increasingly stupid open goals.

And, in the end, Germany win. Chileans fume and kick out.

We go to bed. The weekend was already over.

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