Mike Waller, myself and Chris Hazell had met to Sean Cole's house in Kidderminster the evening before. Sean and his wife Trudie had very kindly put us up so we could make any early start the following morning. So after a quick coffee to wake us up we headed north up the M6.
There was a lot of travelling during the day to get up to our digs near Fort Augustus but we did have a date with local botanists in the Cumbrian village of Orton on the way up. Meeting them in the village a short walk later we were in the SSSI of Orton Pastures feasting our eyes upon big numbers of Northern Marsh Orchids, Heath Spotted Orchids and Heath Fragrant Orchids. We spent a good while on the site carefully examining anything looking interesting - our host Alan indicated where we should concentrate our search and we soon found several Pugsley's Marsh Orchids and a couple of Marsh Fragrant Orchids but it was the hybrids that stole the show - we identified no less than 4 hybrid combinations. The prize went to a lovely Pugsley's x Heath Fragrant with Northern Marsh x Heath Fragrant, Common Spotted x Northern Marsh and the relatively frequent Heath Spotted x Northern Marsh. Examining the Heath Spotted Orchids I was amazed to see how much they vary. All extremely eductional!
Into the bargain plenty of other plants were seen. The amazingly rare Leafless Hawkweed at it's only UK location, Hybrid Monkeyflower, numerous Birdseye Primrose, Mountain Everlasting, Bog Asphodel, Butterwort and Eyebright sp. Chimney Sweep moths were common and there were a few Common Blues about.
Moving into the area in the middle of the pasture we found incarnata and pulchella Early Marsh Orchids to add to the growing species list.
Northern Marsh Orchids
Heath Spotted Orchids
Heath Fragrant Orchids
Pugsley's Marsh Orchids
Pugsley's Marsh x Heath Fragrant hybrid
Northen Marsh x Heath Spotted hybrids
Just down the road on the way out of the village we were keen to stop and look for Frog Orchids and found some really stout plants of both red and green varieties easily. There was also a good candidate for the var. longibracteatum with really long bracts. Here there were also plenty of Northern Marsh Orchids, a few Heath Fragrant Orchids and then Sean hit gold - a simply awesome Frog Orchid x Northern Marsh Orchid growing amongst it's 'parents' right on the roadside. Research has shown this to be only the 2nd English record and the first one for 64 years - just wow!
The wildflower list also continued to grow with Fox and Cubs, Melancholy Thistle and Monkshood all seen on the verges.
Northern Marsh Orchid