JUST when you think nothing can surpass the magnificent bluebell vistas, or wild flowers of the meadows, up spring the orchids!
These are not the exotic flowers wrapped in plastic in the local supermarket, but thousands of flower spikes that appear suddenly from the chalk grasslands across the Chilterns.
One day you visit a nature reserve and see a green sward of grass, and five days later it’s full of pink, purple, creamy-white and green flowers of orchids – as if by magic!
Phil Townsend, the warden at Aston Clinton Ragpits, is thrilled with the exceptional display on the nature reserve. More than 100 white helleborines and over 200 greater butterfly orchids (one is pictured) were counted on 13 June, and thehe tally of chalk fragrantorchids is likely to exceed 6,000.
The numbers of greater butterfly orchid are impressive because it’s more than double last year’s total, and that was a good year too.
This is mainly due to the careful management of this old quarry, ragstone was used for local buildings, which was rescued by the Wildlife Trust when it was earmarked to be a rubbish dump. Sheep graze the chalk grassland in winter, and diligent volunteers cut back scrub to keep it open for the flowers.
Greater butterfly orchid
Orchids at Grangelands
On 5 July, local orchid expert Peter Creed is leading a guided walk among the orchids and other beauties of Grangelands and nearby Pulpit Hill, near Prince Risborough. You’re sure to see spectacular swathes of chalk fragrant-orchids and the rare musk orchid too.
Grangelands is long-renowned for superb displays of the now unusual wild flowers of the Chilterns chalk grasslands and the butterflies associated with them. Look out for marbled white, green hairstreak, silver-washed fritillary and chalkhill blue butterflies.
Take your binoculars and camera to make the most of the walk and enjoy the whole experience.
Book your place at www.bbowt.org.uk/ whats-on or go to the Reserves page and choose another Chilterns site to explore.
Wendy Tobbit is the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust media manager. Her column appears regularly