An Old Chalk Pit filled with Orchids – Nature Wins

Old Chalk Pit filled with Orchids

Old Chalk Pit filled with Orchids

At the edge of our village lies a disused clunch (and coprolite) pit, unworked since the beginning of the 20th Century. It is a relative small affair compared to others nearby (see for instance blogger Jonathan Spain’s account of the history of South Cambs. clunch pits). It is fairly isolated, being surrounded largely by productive farm land. But as with all abandoned open cast mines, nature has reclaimed it and clothed the bare chalk. In fact, with a little local management and grass cutting, nature has outdone herself, because the pit is now filled with floral treasures …. of the Orchid kind.

Common Spotted Orchid, Man Orchid and Twayblade

Growing side by side, from left to right: Man Orchid, Common Spotted Orchid and Twayblade

So I took a wander up to the quarry today to see if the wild orchids were out yet and I was in luck. They are looking fantastic and I have never seen them so numerous. There are four kinds in the quarry in flower now: spotted, bee, man and twayblade. The view across the pit was tinged with the pink from the spikes of common spotted orchids, Dactylorhiza fuchsii.

Common Spotted Orchids filling the disused chalk quarry.

Common Spotted Orchids filling the disused chalk quarry. (Cowslip seed heads forming a contrasting backdrop.)

Common Spotted Orchid

Common Spotted Orchid, Dactylorhiza fuchsii

Looking more closely however, I would say that the Twayblades, Neottia ovata, were better represented and certainly covered a more extensive area.

Twayblade

Twayblade

Man Orchids, Orchis anthropophora, were fewer on the ground, but with their hoods were easier to spot.

Man Orchids, Orchis anthropophora

Man Orchids, Orchis anthropophora

And scattered just here and there were the dramatic Bee Orchids, Ophrys apifera:

Bee Orchids, Ophrys apifera

Bee Orchids, Ophrys apifera

These wild orchids are growing in amongst a rich tapesty of other chalk-loving wildflowers such as:

Common Milkwort, Polygala vulgari, which range in colour from dusky purples to blue:

quarry7
Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus, with its yellow flowers and reddish buds:

quarry8Bladder campion, Silene vulgaris, looking a bit like little airships:

quarry13
And greater Knapweed, Centaurea scabiosa …… Not quite out yet, but beautiful anyway:

quarry9

All in all, the old chalk pit is a wonderful place to wander or walk the dog and June is an excellent time to see the orchids there.

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About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
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4 Responses to An Old Chalk Pit filled with Orchids – Nature Wins

  1. Chloris says:

    Oh wow, thank you for this great post. How wonderful to have this special place near your home. I get so excited when I find wild orchids, but to have so many all in one place is amazing. Is it cared for by the Wildlife Trust?

    • Yes, we are so lucky to have it and hardly anyone knows about it! Some local groups count the different orchids each year. I think the local parish manages it. I looked up SSSIs and ours is not included.

  2. Julie says:

    What a really lovely post, I can imagine a wonderful dog walk here. I spotted my first common spotted orchid walking our dog last night, I was thrilled with one, to have 4 species in the same field is marvellous.

    • It is a hidden treasure, very peaceful and beautiful. I think most dog walkers just go round the high rim of it! Hardly anyone knows about the orchids and of course you have to time your visit just right. Last year I completely missed the man orchids by arriving too late in the season.

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