Tuesday 15 June 2021

Kentish Nature Walks # 13 - Downland Orchiding once again - 15th June 2021

Another Tuesday off and a post breakfast jaunt in search of more botanical wonders.  I was at Strawberry Banks near Bredhurst before half nine.  It was quite grey but warming quickly as I headed down into the valley.  I stopped to chat with the farm lady lookering and said hello to the impressive bull that I met last year.


As usual the grass valley looked devoid of anything but waving grass but as I got closer I began to see the little purple triangle of Pyramidal Orchids alongside Oxeye Daisies, Birds Foot Trefoil, Horseshoe Vetch and Red Clover.  Small Heaths flitted in front and two Meadow Browns became my first of the year.

Pyramidal Orchid

Common Rock Rose

Horseshoe Vetch


The slope up the other side was the most productive last year and once again was covered in a proliferation of Chalk Fragrant Orchid spikes.  They peppered the grassland with patches of comingled Common Spotted and odd groups of both Man Orchid and Common Twayblade. 

Chalk Fragrant Orchids

Common Spotted Orchids

And wondering of this one with unmarked leaves is a CSO x CFO hyrbid?

Man Orchids

Common Twayblade

I found White and Broad-leaved Helleborine leaves under the trees but no blooms and was pleased to discover two groups of Bee Orchids.  One was just starting with single flowers per stem and the other three were in full multi flower mode.

Broad-leaved Helleborine

Wild Privet

Bladder Campion


Bee Orchids

Squinancy Wort, Yellow Wort, Kidney Vetch and further Pyramidals dotted the meadow but there was no Scabious yet in flower.  The single Musk Thistle was exactly where I saw it last year and one fluffy head was already out.

Pyramidal Orchid

Pyramidal Orchid

Yellow Wort

Musk Thistle

Musk Thistle

Squinancy Wort


Common and Adonis Blues were seen but most were in a sorry state but it was the first time I had seen the latter here.    

Common Blue

Adonis Blue

Adonis Blue


There were zillions of Grasshopplings and a good sized Roesel’s Bush Cricket in the verge and I was pleased to find Bryony Bees on the same White bryony clump as last year. A small but imposing Robberfly was to be found on each post and I think it may be the species that I saw at Park Gate - Leptarthus brevirostris.

Unknown Robber

Roesel’s Bush Cricket

Bryony Bee

Leptarthus brevirostris.

a pale Small Copper

Small Heath

female Heliophanus sp Jumping Spider

Bullfinches called from the hedges and a couple of Med Gulls made me look up and smile as I headed back to the car after a pleasant interlude talking to the Hales.

From here I wiggled down to The Larches but it was still too early for any Yellow Bird’s Nest to be showing and the Broad leaved Helleborines looked great but still have a long way to go yet.  There were a few Common Spotted Orchids but the grazed clearing is still waiting to burst back into life in the coming weeks.

Broad leaved Helleborines

Broad leaved Helleborines

Common Spotted Orchids

Common Spotted Orchid

Black Bryony


I found an interesting small Longhorn Beetle on my walk back down and a Holly Blue posed nicely at the end of my short visit.   


Tobacco Coloured Longhorn - Alosterna tabacicolor

Holly Blue

Spider to be identified on my car window

From here I looped back home and actually made my way to the top of the road as I wanted to have a better look at the Ramscombe Twayblades that Jason and Nicole found me last Thursday and to see if I could find the few Bee Orchids that Frank fund at the weekend.

The Meadow Cranesbill was now in good flower with blousy vibrant blooms open to the sun along with the Oxeyes and Hawkweeds.  I was quickly onto several Bee Orchids and am still puzzled why I found none last year.

Meadow Cranesbill

Eristalis pertinax

Bombus terrestris

Pyramidal Orchid

The Twayblades were much better in the daylight and amazingly were surrounded by more Bee Orchids that we had not seen and I counted about 20 spikes behind the fence on the bridge along with a few Pyramidal.

Bee Orchids

Common Twayblade

I crossed and turned left alongside the railway stopping at the end to look for Small Blues.  The Brambles were just flowering and were covered in Bumble Bees with six species in attendance including several smart B vestalis – the Southern Cuckoo Bee.  

Bombus vestalis

Bombus vestalis


I found two Osmia bicolor which were my first for the site and similarly the cracking Hoverfly, Chrysotoxum festivum was also new.  There were a couple of Scaeva pyrastri on the Oxeyes and I found two male Eristalis intricaria in serious territorial hover mode.

Osmia bicolor

Eristalis intricaria

Eristalis intricaria

Scaeva pyrastri

Scaeva pyrastri

Scaeva pyrastri

Chrysotoxum festivum

I eventually found a single Small Blue along with Common Blues and Brown Argus and a Common Darter was already on the prowl but kept low when a male Emperor did the rounds.

Small Tortoiseshell

Brown Argus

Small Blue

Sicus ferrugineus

Sicus ferrugineus

Malachius bipustulatus

Phyllobius sp

It was now pretty warm and being hatless I decided to head back up the other side of the tracks.  I could see a few Pyramidals and Broomrape poking through the sparse grass on the railway embankment and was marvelling at these when I realised that a ten yard stretch was quite literally covered in the most amazing display of Bee Orchids I have ever seen.


Pyramidal Orchid


Bee Orchid

I counted at least 230 spikes but was using my naked eye and undoubtedly missed quite a few.  Being behind a fence had kept them out of harms way and the lack of constant mowing by the Eurostar contractors this year has made a huge difference.  This is just a few hundred yards from where the large numbers of Early Purples were in the spring.

Mesmerising Bee Orchids

 I picked a few celebratory Wild Strawberries and headed for home.

No comments:

Post a Comment