Saturday, 6 June 2015

#30DaysWild day 6: Blooming Brilliant Ragpits

It's two weeks since we were last at Aston Clinton Ragpits and at that point only the Twayblades were fully flowering. The Greater Butterfly, Chalk Fragrant and Common Spotted Orchids were all nearly there, but not quite open as you can see here.

We were back today (minus Bug Mad Girl this time, who's at Brownie camp all weekend) on a guided walk led by the warden. We were looking forward to seeing which orchids were flowering now and what treasures we'd missed that the warden could point out to us.

The site used to be a chalk quarry, so it's full of steep slopes and deep hollows and is a warm, sheltered sun trap. From the road you would never know it was there, but as soon as you walk through a few trees it opens out into the most amazing chalk grassland site, that's completely covered in orchids and other wild flowers. Apparently 50 species of wild flowers have been recorded in a single square metre there!

It never ceases to amaze me how much can change in just a couple of weeks. Where two weeks ago we'd been excited to see a handful of Chalk Fragrant Orchids just showing a bit of colour, they were now everywhere you looked.

There were plenty more flowers still to open, which should keep everybody very busy at the annual orchid count that's due to take place next weekend. The warden thinks they'll be at their peak in about two weeks time, so we'll definitely be back for another look.
We found Greater Butterfly Orchids throughout the site. Again, when we'd previously been there we'd been excited to find what we hoped were a few Butterfly Orchids, but now there were lots of them. I think they are my favourite orchid (at the moment) as they're so tall and elegant. They really are beautiful.

The Common Spotted Orchids are flowering now and the Twayblades are putting on a wonderful display. It's such a shame they're green flowers so disappear into the background. If they were any other colour everybody would love them and think they were stunning!

Common Spotted Orchid
common Spotted Orchid

Common Twayblades

Common Twayblades

Common Twayblade flowers
The warden showed us some White Helleborines hiding in the shade of a Hazel coppice that we hadn't spotted before. He also pointed out where to look for Bee Orchids and Broad Leaved Helleborines later in the summer.

White Helleborines
White Helleborines

The Ragpits are a wonderful site for butterflies and we saw Common Blues, Brimstones and Dingy Skippers today. There would have been more flying, but it was quite windy and the sun was in and out all morning.
Common Blues

Dingy Skipper
We also found a Slow-worm under one of the sheets of corrugated iron. There are also Grass snakes on the site, but we didn't find any today. There were no Adders, but we did find some Adders-tongue Ferns instead!

No Adders, but there were Adder's-tongue Ferns
It's such an amazing site and we'll go back in a coupe of weeks to see the Chalk Fragrant Orchids at their very best.


  1. Did you get the new issue of BBC Wildlife? Your pic with the toy penguins are in it!

  2. Haven't seen it yet - how exciting! BMG was worried that they would mind that the penguins were wearing bow ties. Obviously they didn'!