Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Yoesden Bank

This morning I visited one of my favourite places, a secret garden hidden away in the Chilterns called Yoesden Bank. It's always wonderfully peaceful, yet full of surprises and it's a real treat to spend an hour or two there.

Today I was looking for something very special, a rare variety of common spotted orchid called rhodochila. It has dark red leaves and flowers with a block of dark purple colouring inside and a paler edge, but no spots, lines or whorls. During the guided walk on Sunday I was told there were two plants at Yoesden, so I was keen to see if I could find them.

To get to the reserve, you walk through a wonderful meadow full of wild flowers and insects. Sadly, it had all been cut since my last visit, but a closer look showed the wildflowers were already starting to appear again.
The meadow looking a bit bare

The flowers are coming back already
I walked down the side of the meadow and watched the swallows swooping low over grass and around the barn that houses their nests. The sun suddenly came out and meadow browns and ringlets appeared from nowhere and fluttered around my feet. I was already glad that I was there and I hadn't even reached the reserve yet!

Swallows flying around their barn
Inside the reserve I had the usual 'wow' moment as I stepped out of the wooded area onto the grassland.

The knapweed and scabious were flowering throughout the site and it seemed like every plant had meadow browns, marbles whites, skippers and ringlets feasting on its flowerheads. There were clouds of butterflies everywhere. It was really beautiful and I almost forgot what I was there for!

I walked along the top path, down to the far corner, then back along the bottom path and up the side through the trees. Unfortnately the common spotted orchids were way past there best and I didn't find a rhodochila. Never mind, something to look for next summer! There were plenty of pyramidal orchids looking lovely though.
Pyramidal orchid
The butterflies were amazing and were flying despite the wind and intermittent cloud/sun and I saw my first gatekeeper of the year.

Gatekeeper - you can tell it's a gatekeeper as it has two small white dots on
the black spot on the forewing

Marbled white

Meadow brown

 As I walked around, I came across lots of Dark Mullein in flower. It's the foodplant of the nationally scarce Striped Lychnis moth (and we grew lots of it in the spring to try and help the moth). The flowers were covered in hoverflies and bees and when you look closely you can see how pretty they are.
Dark mullein


I found a few flowers and leaves that had been well nibbled, but I couldn't find any sign of what had eaten them. I'll have to keep an eye on them and see if I can spot any caterpillars.

There were lots of other insects around, particularly ladybirds and soldier beetles.

7-spot ladybirds
Soldier beetle
I spent a few minutes watching the bramble flowers on my way back through the meadow and saw my first comma since the spring and a lovely small tortoiseshell.


Small tortoiseshell
I also spotted two bees trying to mate. but the male looked far too small. It turns out it's a male cuckoo bee (bombus rupestrus) trying to mate with a queen buff-tailed bumblebee.

Another lovely morning at Yoesden Bank!


  1. I'm so glad I've read your blog today. That reserve is very close to me and I hadn't realised it existed! Shall be visiting it asap. Thank you for your informative blogs. We live in Downley so appreciate that you are relatively local.

  2. Thank you for reading the blog. Yoesden Bank is definitely worth a visit. I hardly ever see anybody there, which I really don't understand as it's such a special place - adds to the calm and tranquility though! Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!