Sunday, 2 July 2017

Kenfig Orchids

June is the month for fetching my two daughters back from University though it is of course also often a rather poor month for birding so I am rather thankful that my relatively new found interest in botany gives me something to do in the summer months. Daughter Number 2 was ready to come back last week from Swansea so I hunted around for things to look at en route and soon came up with Kenfig Nature Reserve, which is one of only two sites in the country where you can see Fen Orchids. That made for a great trip target and I made some on-line enquiries and a helpful gent told me exactly where to go to find the main dune slack where the orchids were located. So on Friday 23rd I set off on the familiar route west towards Wales.

The weather got steadily worse as I headed westwards and as I pulled into the car park of the reserve the rain started to come down. This was a real shock to the system after the prolonged period of really hot sunny weather that we'd been having and I was thankful that I'd brought my waterproofs and fleece with me. I got kitted up and then carefully headed off, following the mental map in my head of where to go. Without instructions it would be very easy to get lost in such a big area of dunes and I didn't want to spend ages blundering around not knowing where to look for the orchids.

Along the path I soon started coming across some Southern Marsh Orchids as well as various other interesting plants. After less than ten minutes walk I turned off the main path to the main dune slack area. For those who aren't familiar with this geographical term, a dune slack is a low lying depression within a dune system between the dune ridges, where water accumulates. This damp area is ideal for orchids and as soon as I found it I was confronted with a vast area that was just covered with orchids and wild flowers of all kinds. It was wonderful!

The main dune slack, about the size of two football pitches
The grass was full of orchids and flowers of all kinds
Southern Marsh Orchid
Common Spotted Orchid

Marsh Fragrant Orchid - now considered to be a full species rather than just a sub-species of Fragrant Orchid
Marsh Helleborines were everywhere

The bright red "coccinea" subspecies of Southern Marsh Orchid

Pyramidal Orchid
My main target of course was the Fen Orchid and I diligently started searching through all the other plants. I knew that these were a rather small colourless orchid and so would be hard to find. It was also rather late in the season and I did wonder if the extreme heat wave that we'd been having the previous week might have finished them all off for the year but unfortunately this was when my daughter had needed picking up so I hadn't been able to come any earlier. I searched long and hard through all the flowers and did get quite excited when I finally found this colourless orchid:

Just a Common Twayblades!
However, I soon realised that it was actually just a Common Twayblades (the only one that I found). In the end I had to give up and admit defeat. Either I just didn't have my eye in, or I was looking in the wrong place (I don't think so though) or they'd all gone over already but try as I might I just couldn't find any. Oh well, there's always next year! I wasn't too disappointed as I'd seen a great variety of wonderful orchids in a very interesting habitat that I didn't get to explore too often. With time marching on I headed back to the car, admiring the flora as I went.

Viper's Bugloss
Meadow Thistle - sorry about my hand but the wind meant that it was impossible to take a photo otherwise
Bog Pimpernel

The rest of the trip was rather mundane. I picked up my daughter, we packed the car, bought some sandwiches for the journey back and the return leg was uneventful. Still I'd discovered a great new nature reserve which was just a short distance off the motorway to Swansea and so now had yet another great piece of habitat to visit on my welsh visits. Maybe next year I'll also get to see the Fen Orchids!

1 comment:

barry said...

I enjoyed your trip and a great photo of your fingers. The Feather.