Communing With Orchids On Windmill Hill

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Yesterday morning he who presently spends his time making a scale model of a static steam engine, surprised me by abandoning house and shed to take part in the orchid count on Windmill Hill. We had the first count last year, but this year the orchids are far more numerous. The hill is in the care of the Windmill Trust, a group of local volunteers, and in the past the limestone grassland was mostly kept in check by a flock of small ponies, brought in to graze at the end of summer. Unfortunately the little ponies had to be sold, so last year at summer’s end  the Windmill Trust had the hill mowed, the hay baled and dispatched to the local riding centre and the ground harrowed. It’s certainly given the purple pyramidal orchids a boost, though later when I went up the hill to see for myself, apart from the pyramids, I could only find this single Bee Orchid and one Spotted Orchid, though I was probably a bit late for the latter; they anyway prefer the parts of the hill where the soil is less calcareous.

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With all the rain we’ve had, the grasses are knee-high and the orchids not as conspicuous as they usually are. But there are also masses of other limestone meadow flowers: wild thyme, mallow, agrimony, viper’s bugloss, knapweed, thistles, ladies bedstraw, hop trefoil, vetches, yellow rattle, cinquefoil, brambles, St. John’s Wort and hawkweeds. The place was alive with insects too – not only bees, but also blue damsel- and dragon flies and masses of Meadow Brown and Small Heath butterflies. Also a Common Blue. I didn’t see the peregrine falcon though that Graham had seen in the morning, but I went home thinking what a treasure place is Windmill Hill.

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P.S. Hot off the press come the orchid count results: 3,574 pyramidal orchids (compared to 864 last year); 129 spotted orchids; 15 bee orchids.

 

Six Word Saturday

33 thoughts on “Communing With Orchids On Windmill Hill

  1. Wow! That’s a heck of a lot of orchids! How wonderful to have such diversity next to your house. I love finding our native flowers and there are so many if we take the time to look (and have the habitat to sustain them of course).

    1. I agree. We do need to protect habitats. It’s interesting how the Trust, set up initially to research into and conserve the windmill remains, has ended up nurturing the whole hill. The secondary school also uses it as resource, the hill being literally in its backyard. They were also out counting orchids earlier in the week, so we have 2 sets of corroborating data acquired by different surveying methods.

    1. Oh I wouldn’t want to walk with snakes! We do have grass snakes here, but I’ve never seen one, and they are harmless though quite large. Adders which do bite, seem to occupy known locations, and I don’t think we have them in Shropshire (she says hopefully).

    1. It was lovely to see them on parts of the hill where I hadn’t seen them before. Possibly the harrowing at the end of last summer had something to do with this year’s expansion.

  2. Such a wonderful post, Tish! I love it that you have so many insects too, and what a boost of orchids! We also have many of them where I live, but you certainly had more this year. And all those lovely names – I know what book I will put my nose in tonight.

    1. Wildflower names are such fun, aren’t they. And often so many variations per plant. It’s shame that so many meadows have been lost to monoculture agriculture – whole intricate and imtimate eco-systems gone. I have yet to get my head around identifying the many members the grass family, but they are beautiful too, and also very attractive to insect life.

      1. The grasses are very many and so alike…but beautiful and needed. Close to where I live there is an abandoned field that was used to land small aeroplanes – now left to land insects and birds. It is lovely to just sit there in the grass and watch them and listen to them.

    1. I’m sure the rain helped, though its effects don’t last long on a limestone hill. It sort of passes through and down. But the main thing was perhaps that we didn’t have a spring drought that has been happening for a few years now.

  3. What a luxuriance of orchids. Over 3000!!! Wow. And your listing of other plants is luxuriance too and also pure poetry. I’m always a bit bemused that orchids like disturbance. Fire is a plus for a number of Australian species.

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