Accidentally finding a rarity

Creeping lady’s tresses

The only holiday we booked this year was a week at a Centre Parcs, no orchid hunting trips, none of my usual long drives tracking down some tiny rare plant that I’ve never seen before. Well, we went to Centre Parcs in Cumbria, mainly because we were going with a family member who uses a wheelchair and they are so good at making everything accessible. Also it was at the end of August so when The Husband said ‘Aren’t there any orchids on this trip?’ I said ‘Oh no there won’t be anything at this time of year, they’re pretty much done apart from the Lady’s tresses and the Helleborines’.

So then I looked it up.

Well I was very excited to find that Cumbria Centre Parcs is one of a very few English sites for Creeping lady’s tresses (Goodyera repens) , which I had never seen before. Most of them are in Scotland, there’s a few in Norfolk. And I discovered that they are to be found in an area of a few square metres just off the main path between our lodge and the swimming pool.

It was a little late in the year for them, as you can see from my not very good pictures, they were turning brown at the tips. Also, in my defence, I hadn’t taken my good camera on holiday and only had my phone.

Creeping lady’s tresses

They like a dark forest floor of pine needles and may be found amongst heather and bilberry, or in a mossy patch. Also it is not the Lady but the plant that creeps, forming a clump and spreading via runners. It is the only British orchid which is evergreen having no dormant period when it dies back and retreats underground.

Naturally the rest of my party were not convinced that we had accidentally gone on holiday within 100m of a rare orchid species, during its flowering time. I could tell you that it was my son who chose the location and the timing was determined by other factors, but nobody will believe me.

A walk on Common Hill

Like many people, I didn’t get out much this year and when I did get a walk it wasn’t far from home. Common Hill is just a few miles from my home and lies on a limestone outcrop in south Herefordshire. It is a local wildlife hot spot with a mosaic of ancient woodland, hay meadow gems and a maze of tracks, lanes and cottages.

A footpath runs the length of the hill and this is my favourite walk in all of Herefordshire. The path includes 4 reserves, meadow and woodland. There is Butchers broom, Stinking iris and Spurge laurel. There is Early purple orchid, Greater butterfly orchid and Martagon lily. There is Native columbine, Stinking hellebore and Herb paris. There is Adders tongue fern, Common spotted orchid and Pyramidal orchid. There are ancient Yews, Small leaved lime and Wild service tree. A botanists’ paradise and I’m so lucky to have this on my doorstep.