Go wild – for 30 days at least
THE Chiltern Hills with stunning views from the high points, delightful valleys with picture-book villages, beech woods and chalk streams offer the opportunity for us to enjoy some of the best countryside in England.
For me this time of year, the end of May into June when the leaves on beech trees are still a soft verdant green, the oaks are spreading majestically, and meadows of wild flowers are attracting butterflies, is just perfect – and I’m not alone!
Summer: an anthology for the changing seasons, published by Elliott and Thompson last week includes a chapter written by John Tyler from Lacey Green about glow-worms, which just happen to be probably the most amazing insects you can see during the summer months!
Going on a glow-worm hunt is one of the Random Acts of Wildness people can do during 30 Days Wild – the month-long challenge from The Wildlife Trusts during June, which hundreds of people are signing up to do.
James Lowen is another author who adores this time of year, and celebrates his love of summer in a superb book, which is my essential guide to 100 great days out watching wildlife.
A Summer of British Wildlife, published by Bradt, is a day by day guide to the best places to see wildlife. For May 29 James recommends visiting the Chilterns to seek out the amazing military orchids in Homefield Wood near Marlow. The display of flowers will be on show for a few weeks, so there’s no need to stampede there this weekend.
For several decades this location was top secret, for fear of orchid collectors pulling up the plants and depriving this lovely Wildlife Trust nature reserve of its beauties. Open access to Homefield Wood to see these extraordinary flowers is recognised by James as ‘a treasured privilege’.
The ‘battalion’ of cream and dark pink military orchids, whose ‘two-armed, twolegged’ flowers topped with a ‘helmet’ give the plant its name, may be the main attraction here; but do take more time to wander through the woodland and spot the almost luminous pale cream of the greater butterfly orchid and the spindly lime-green flowers of common twayblade.
Once you get your eye in on these exotic flowers you will soon spot the strange-looking fly orchid whose dark reddish-brown flowers mimic female digger wasps. The flowers emit a pheromone that attracts male digger wasps to visit and be covered in pollen before attempting to copulate with another orchid flower masquerading as a female wasp!
Many of these beautiful flowers love growing in the dappled sunlight of dense woodland, which means capturing the colours and exquisite delicacy of the plants in photographs can be quite a challenge!
Step forward Andrew Marshall, one of the UK’s top nature photographers, whose book Photographing Wildlife in the UK gives good advice and tips for beginners, as well as field craft techniques to help achieve the best sharply-focused images.
All our lives are better when we’re connected to nature, so why not take a few minutes to check out which nature reserves you would like to visit in June as part of the 30 Days Wild Challenge. Then pack your camera, and a smartphone for tweeting and get out there to enjoy the first weeks of summer!
Perfect view: Day-dreaming on Chinnor Hill CREDIT SUE CROXFORD
Exotic: Fly orchid CREDIT: PHILIP PRECEY