The reserve was hidden away down some lovely country lanes and we had to walk about a mile to reach it. Then we had to scrabble up a steep slope, but what an amazing view from the top of the hill!
Monkey orchids are listed as vulnerable and nationally rare. They're quite small, between 10 and 30 cm tall and are only found in three sites in Britain, this one and two in Kent. Records have been kept for the monkey orchids at Hartslock since 1792.
The lip has four lobes that form the arms and legs of the monkey (each tinged a darker pink). A short fifth lobe forms the tail of the monkey.
They're unique amongst British orchids as the flowers open from the top down, opening in quick succession so they're at their best for a relatively short amount of time.
Hartslock is the only site in the country where a hybrid of the lady and monkey orchids has grown. First seen in 2006, these flowers have characteristics of both parents, but they are much larger than the monkey orchids. They're beautiful orchids, standing tall above the grass, mostly on one sheltered side of the slope.
There are seven different orchids found on the site, including twayblade, which we found hiding away in the grass. The others (bee, common spotted and pyramidal) will flower in a month or so.
We walked back to the car through the country lanes lined with frothy cow parsley.
The cows were leaning over to reach the goose grass, which they were pulling up in clumps and thoroughly enjoying eating.
We had a wonderful morning exploring somewhere new. I like the reserves that take a bit of effort to reach, especially when there's something really special waiting for you when you get there.