Sunday, 15 June 2014

Mottisfont and Burghclere

A little bit of a change from my normal walks in the countryside. I drove a little bit further than usual to go to Mottisfont an old National Trust property located about ten miles west of Winchester. As Winchester is very much in Wessex this still qualifies as a Wessex wandering.

Mottisfont is justly famous and popular for its walled rose garden. As I did not note down the species of roses I can only publish a set of pictures. Some of the roses are old and yet remain very healthy.


Up close the double rose flower forms a lovely feast for the eyes and the nose.


There were roses of all types and colours. From the heavily petalled to the 'original' single forms.


The pure white forms have a lot of charm.


The roses were interspersed with many other plants to add form and all year round interest. These Allium (onion) flower heads were spectacular - a foot across.


The plants attracted many insects, some Salvias were being visited by numerous honey bees and bumble bees. Only two butterflies dared the crowds though, a small Tortoiseshell and this Comma butterfly, conveniently resting on a bellflower.


At the front of some of the beds were some pinks (Dianthus), lending their own distinct perfume to the mix.


I was unable to identify all the plants including this one.

Finally a wider shot that gives a vague idea of just how many flowers had been packed into the lovely wall garden.

Now after an all too brief visit to Mottisfont my journey back took me within a mile of the old chalk quarry at Burghclere, so I could not resist the temptation of seeing how the Fly Orchids were doing. I have made longer visits there in 2013 and 2012. As it is high season for orchids I was hoping to see one or two still in flower. On the path down I saw a few Twayblades (Neottia ovata) plants and on reaching the quarry I found hundreds of them.

Twayblades,Neottia ovata

The other species of orchid in large numbers was the Common Spotted variety (Dactylorhiza fuchsii).

Common Spotted Orchid,Dactylorhiza fuchsii

Conditions were not ideal for butterflies - it was overcast and late, so I did not see any, I had to settle for moths, including this Cinnabar moth (Tyria jacobaeae) hiding away in the grass.

Cinnabar moth,Tyria jacobaeae

Now the main attraction of the site is the presence of Fly Orchids (Ophrys insectifera), and I am happy to report that there were dozens of them dotted around. Netting to give protection from rabbits had been placed around some colonies but these did not seem to make a great deal of difference, they were growing just as well outside the mesh enclosures.

Fly Orchids,Ophrys insectifera

I am guilty of a bit of deception here, as there is no sense of scale. In fact fly orchids are hard to spot and you need to look and tread carefully. This next shot includes at least one flowering spike, but it is hard to pick out.

Fly Orchids,Ophrys insectifera

As I was leaving I found I had missed one of the most striking 'flowers' there. It is a broomrape viewed from above, don't ask me which one; but knapweed broomrape is about the most common in these parts. They are parasitic plants taking all their food from the roots of their specific host plant.


And a close up of the strange looking flowers.


As I was walking back to the car, I had one final treat. On previous occasions I had admired a large colony of Common Spotted orchids on the grass verge of the slipway down to the A34 dual carriageway. I went over to check if there were other species hidden amongst them, and failed to see any. However, close by, in another piece of verge I had more luck. I found a single flowering spike of a Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera) looking fresh and healthy. I have introduced it is as a distant shot so you can see how easy it is to miss the plant.

Bee Orchid,Ophrys apifera

Although more common than the Fly orchid, Bee orchids are good to see, the only photographs I have of them is from Bramshill and I have never been on a walk before when I have seen both species. Here is a close-up in all its strange beauty.

Bee Orchid,Ophrys apifera