Wednesday 2 June 2021

Kentish Nature Walks # 9 - Day of the Orchids - 2nd June 2021

Dithering is something I now seem quite good at.  It is not that I do not want to go to other places and see other things but a part of me just can’t be bothered to drive anywhere which is a little odd.

It was set fair and hot again today so I somehow persuaded myself to head out into the Kentish countryside on a half hearted Orchid Hunt.  As it was I managed to squeeze in far more than I was expecting.

I was at Park Gate Down at just after nine and I had the place entirely to myself.  I had only seen one Monkey Orchid before and that was at the very end of the season a few years back whereas it is now the species at its most showy here.  I had found a few scattered spikes within just a few minutes and I reckon I saw about 30 as I ambled the track through the Buttercup and Cowslip strewn slopes.  There are not the most elegant of orchid having a slightly squash topped look but the individual flowers are wondrously freaky when seen close up.


Monkey Orchids


Twayblades were abundant and the lower down you got the more you could see and there were the odd faded Early Purple Orchid and the startings of one or two Common Spotted along with a lone proud Lady.  The Columbines were flowering well at the top of the slope and all bar one were still in the shade.

Common Twayblade

Common Spotted Orchid

Lady Orchid

Early Purple Orchid

Sald Burnet



A Firecrest was singing proudly from the firs and a fine male Hawfinch flew over calling was an unexpected gift!  I later heard him singing from into the trees.  There were little bursts of Nightingale and Garden Warblers, Blackcaps and Robins were getting in some morning practice before the temperature got too high. 

But I only got a picture of this male Dunnock

There were a few bees around including Early and Red-tailed Bumbles and a single Andrena nitida as well as hunting Empis tessellata and lots of bumbling Cantharis rustica.

Cantharis rustica

Small Heaths, Green Hairstreaks, Dingy Skippers and Burnet Companions flitted around and several glowing Brimstones dash across the meadows.  

Dingy Skipper

Burnet Companion

Green Hairstreak

Leptarthrus brevirostris - a Robberfly

It was already very warm so I retraced my steps and could hear Yellowhammer and Whitethroat in the adjacent meadow where some horses peacefully grazed. 

Slightly more X-rated than I realised at the time...

Just back up the lane I could smell the Ramsons in the roadside wood and walked up there for the purpose of collecting some leaves and to look for Portevinia maculata, the Hoverfly that is tied only to this species. I soon found several males along with a small spiky Tachinid and lots of Nomad Bees that defied closer scrutiny. The smell was devine.


Portevinia maculata

Portevinia maculata

Portevinia maculata - all males

Tachina fera

Tachinid sp

I was slightly lost in a Garlic haze when a Golden Oriole quite clearly sang from the Oak canopy. It did it several more times in the course of a minute at which point I tried to record it.  It never made another sound and although I would have loved to have captured the moment it still left me beaming in the same way that my invisible April Bee-eater did at Rainham.

A huge Cockchafer

Wood Sorrel


The car was a sweat box when I got back to it and my Dark KitKat had changed state and moved from solid to liquid. I left it wrapped and hoped that it would not escape its wrapper.

I plotted my route to Wye Down next and the twisty route took me through some tiny lanes with big views of Buttercup covered pastures.  The whole area feels a world away from a county crisscrossed with motorways and other main roads and I wonder what else is to be found in these hidden corners and valleys.


I parked up at Wye and was quickly at the spot where the Late Spider Orchids are to be found. Most were snugly in their little metal cages and not every plant had a flower open yet and those that did only had one apiece.  

No two were alike and I had to check when I got home that all were LSO and not Bee Orchid but please feel free to correct me if I have made a mistake.



Late Spider Orchids

There were plenty of other botanical delights with Houndstongue, Fairy Flax, Bird’s-foot Trefoil and Salad Burnet and as I sat back in my car having a coffee a pair of Turtle Doves flew in  and he started purring before they moved off to a more secluded spot.



Fairy Flax


Bird's Foot Trefoil

Germander Speedwell

Back to Google Maps and run back up north to the little car park for Denge and Penny Pot Woods and Bonsai Bank.  This is where I have been with Nicole and Jason before and I spent the next couple of hours walking the paths like before and encountering a wealth of showy Orchids to get up close to and pap merrily!

The Lady Orchids were magnificent as usual and I was pleased to fine a large fully white one and amongst the numerous Greater Butterfly Orchids there were two fully open ones showing the splayed pollenia.  The Lesser BO that we found last year was not up.  


Lady Orchids

Greater Butterfly & Lady Orchid

Greater Butterfly Orchids

There were Twayblades by the dozen and a few Fly Orchids along the edges where the first Common Spotteds were just opening.

Common Spotted Orchid

Fly Orchid

Fly Orchid
Fly Orchid

At Bonsai there were quite a few White Helleborine and one had a fully open flower which was great while most only had the smallest of openings.

White Helleborines

I only saw one Duke of Burgundy zipping around along with a few Dingy Skippers and Green Hairstreaks and loads of unknown micro moths (sorry Antony) but I did see a black with white spots one that I should know but I have had to pester Antony on his hols in Yorkshire for an answer!

Green Hairstreak

Dingy Skipper

Common White Wave

Anania funebris

male Evarcha falcata - he was 'engaged' with a robust female when I found him

There were Osmia bicolor visiting Trefoil and searching the ground, presumably for empty snail shells.  They seldom stay still and I have yet to get one in focus!  Wood Ants criss-crossed the path and Green Tiger Beetles enagaed in their usual race-fly-land-race hunting strategy.

Green Tiger Beetle

Green Tiger Beetle

Osmia bicolor and a shell!

There was a brief snatch of Nightingale and a couple of Garden Warblers were engaged in a babble-off while another singing Firecrest was not overly surprising.  Families of Marsh Tit and Long-tailed Tit moved along the rides and a Red Kite drifted through.

Red Kite

Green Hairstreaks flashed metallic in the sunshine but disappeared just as easily and there were Common Blues and Brown Argus on the Buttercups.

Brown Argus

Green Hairstreak

With time getting on I made my way back to the car startling a melanistic doe Fallow Deer from the path which was a pity as it would have made a lovely picture.

I guzzled my water and set off once again on a wiggly route that brought me out at the termination of the M2 roundabout before a blat back down to the Sheppey junction for a final stop of the day at Steps Hill Wood where a very kind couple from Berkshire at Bonsai had shown me where to find the Lesser Butterfly Orchids.

My second lovely couple (these ones on a day trip from the Isle of Wight!) escorted me round the narrow site until we reached the four spires of graceful LBO complete with their parallel pollenia.

Lesser Butterfly Orchids


There were Lady Orchids dotted all around, along with Twayblades and the makings of dozens of Broad-leaved Helleborines and although the Early Purple Orchids under the trees were largely over there were still some lovely bright specimens and the remnants to two incredibly tall white flowered specimens.  There were several Columbine clumps and the start of Nettle-leaved Bellflower.

Lady Orchids

Lady Orchid

Broad-leaved Helleborine

Broad-leaved Helleborine

Huge Early Purple Orchid

Remains of white Early Purple Orchid

Common Gromwell

Nettle-leaved Bellflower


The IoW couple showed me where there was a profusion of Man Orchids alongside the verge of the A259 where the sat amongst one of the horizontal Cotoneasters.  A lone Lizard Orchid is said to be there but we could not find it but I was just as happy with a couple more Osmia bicolor and a vivid Crimson Clover.

Man Orchids

Crimson Clover

Meadow Longhorn - Cauchas rufimitrella

From here it was a straight run home with 12 Orchid species under the belt but I only had to pop up my garden to add one more with a look at one of my magical budding rosettes to add what I am hoping will become a Bee orchid before too long.

Hopefully a Bee Orchid in my 'lawn.

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