Archive for the 'plants' Category


You never know what you might find.

I’m often asked before a tour what we might see. My answer is always the same

‘Rule nothing in, rule nothing out’. You never know what you might see or find.

Tania and I were on the Isle of Wight last week. We were seeking out Glanville’s Fritillary … but more about butterflies in a later post. Tania pointed out a hillside of Broomrape. Broomrape are parasitic plants with particular species having a particular association with various host species.

Now those of you that know me will know I’m no botanist, but I could see this species of Broomrape was not one I knew. A quick text to friend Tony revealed we were stood amid a host of Oxtongue Broomrape (Orobanche picridis), a parasite of Hawkweed Oxtongue. A rare plant indeed.

However, it’s what we saw next which was so incredible.

Amid the throng of spikes was a very pale one. Now I’ve seen the pale form of Purple Broomrape previously, but this was subtly different. Another text to Tony took a few days to generate a reply. Tony had referred the find to ‘Mr Broomrape UK’ Author and botanist Chris Thorogood.

Here’s what he had to say:

“How intriguing, it’s a pigment-deficient form of O. picridis – forma rather than variety (but I don’t believe the official combination e.g. ‘forma lutea’ has ever been made for this species). Nice find 👍🏻

Chris Thorogood”

You never know what you might find.



One of the rarest orchids in the UK is the Late Spider Orchid. At the beginning of this month Tony, Tania and I stumbled among a hillside full of them. The yellow tongue on the lower lip of the flower instantly distinguish it from the Bee Orchid with which you will no doubt be familiar. Orchids are such beautiful flowers.



A walk at Wild Ken Hill among the Spring flowers. Shepherds Cress, Common Storksbill, Greater Stitchwort and Rhododendron.


Odds and Sods

A few photos from this spring and summer, taken on tours around the county and country, that I haven’t had time to post previously …


Making a difference

This last few days Tania and I were transported 200 years into the past. We spent a few days at Knepp.

Back-to-back Nightingale territories, Turtle Doves purring from every bush; a songbird density the like I have never seen in the UK and more woodpeckers than a cider carnival were all on offer. In addition, throw in a few attractive, big, eye-catching species like nesting White Storks, Beavers and you have an area that emulates what some of our countryside was like in years gone by. Achieved by incorporating old English longhorn Cattle, Exmoor Ponies, Tamworth pigs, Roe, Red and Fallow Deer the former 350 acre West Sussex farm is prevented from reverting into woodland. The resulting scrubland enables species to thrive.

We were impressed. We were very impressed.

I won the trip in a photographic competition some years ago; but it wasn’t until now that it was practical to cash in the gift certificate. We stayed in a Shepherd’s hut. No electricity and, no bathroom couldn’t really be said to be our scene. Another 200 year throwback. However, over the couple of days we were there this basic form of ‘glamping’, getting up with the sun and going to bed after sunset, became appealing. A slower life. As close as we can perhaps get to sustenance living. Showering under the sky and using communal washrooms wasn’t our cup of tea. However, we found oddly we didn’t want to leave. Maybe it was the cacophony of beautiful birdsong surrounding us as we woke in the mornings or the lulling evensong that put us to sleep; I don’t know, but this simpler life we found appealing.

Would I pay £110 a night to stay in a garden shed with a bed in it? Well, I find it incredible I’m saying it … but maybe yes, I would.

I know some of you will be interested in the White Storks. A number of introduction methods have been used. There are 7 nests this year. We saw around a dozen birds and saw three nests. These are non-migrating mainly rehabilitated birds, although at least one bird is thought to have arrived under its own ‘steam’ as it were. Next year will be the first year that birds will (hopefully) return that may be thought of as being truly wild. These birds were encouraged, by the way they were introduced, to migrated away with a view to them returning after at least two years maturing on the dark continent.

Normally, I’m not a big reintroduction fan. I believe if you get the land and its use right, if you get the foundation of the pyramid nice and solid, life will find its own way there. In this instance however ‘I get it’. Something big and bold reintroduced to eye-catch and bring in the punters was required. Although don’t be surprised if village rooftop nesting storks hit the headlines in the non-too distant future and the ‘householder-noise’ it creates is not all positive. However, there would be no objection from me if a bill clapping White Stork nested on my roof! What an alarm clock!

(female Banded Demoiselle, Scarce Chaser showing mating marks, Club tailed Dragonfly photographed close to Knepp, Fallow deer, Tamworth sow with piglets, Beautiful Demoiselle, Exmoor ponies, Red Deer, White Stork, Common spotted Orchid, The Tamworth hut where we stayed and ground turned over by the pigs.


Man o man

On our Photographing Norfolk Orchid tour last week we had some damn good orchids. The man Orchids were showing better and in greater numbers than I have seen them before. Each flower a perfect little man. A fabulous display.



It’s no coincidence that the Blue Whale, hanging from the roof of the Hintze hall at the Natural History Museum, is named ‘Hope’. Hope is a feeling of expectation and longing. The largest creature ever to have lived deserves a name that captures the emotion of desire.

Tania and I were on our exercise walk at the weekend and just outside we came across these Snowdrops pushing up through cold dark soil and leaf litter. A sign of Spring.

I hope you are keeping well in these dark days. I hope you, and you family, are safe and well. I hope beyond hope that you know better days are ahead. Spring and better days are on their way.


2020 – my best year yet.

I’ve been receiving cards over Christmas from family, friends, neighbours and customers and they all have had something in common. The wording has been different in each, but the sentiment has been the same … ‘better year in 2021’ … ‘hopeful for change’ … ‘can’t wait until restrictions eased’. You get the drift.

Well, Tania and I must have been on a different planet. We’ve had a great year.

We went on holiday to Florida, we got married, we’ve had the longest honeymoon in history and Tania got a visa to stay and work in the UK and got a Job in the middle of a pandemic. What’s to hate?

Sure, to be wrapped up in ourselves and completely insulated to the misery that is cruelly thwarting the world would be wrong. However, we have managed by careful and thoughtful practice to avoid crowds, be mindful of others and from day one wore gloves and masks when shopping and stayed at home when appropriate. These are OUR rules, not those of some twat in Westminster that can’t even comb his hair. We haven’t extended our liabilities up to the limits of recommendations. We’ve always worked within them. Long before Christmas restrictions my daughter and I decided that she wouldn’t join us this year. Because it was the sensible thing to do. Distance. Distance. Distance. If anyone decided otherwise then they are doomed to disappointment.

So, the best moment of 2020? There have been a few. I’ll cover some in a future post but one moment springs to mind where we shared an evening with a calling Barred Owl. Disappointingly it never did emerge from its hole in a large tree. We were within Mahogany Hammock in the Everglades. As darkness crept through the trees and shapes turned into imaginations a lightshow emerged. A million diamonds flashing in the dark. Fireflies, here there and everywhere. It was like being in a scene from Avatar. I was spellbound.

In reality, the best part of the year has to be spending so much time with Tani. I would guess you would think I have to say that, but to be honest who could not think the world of someone who takes with her a bit of grated cheese or muesli every morning. Just to feed the Robin that greets her in the dark on the platform of West Runton Station. A little Antipodean with a big heart.

Merry Christmas to one and all.


Odd one

Scarce white form of Early Marsh Orchid.



The only place in Norfolk I know of where this Hottentot Fig is growing in the wild. Great care is needed here. We could end up with acres of this introduced alien along the cliffs if this patch isn’t uprooted. It would only take a winter storm to spread this far and wide. There are orchids a plenty along the cliffs here that will be smothered if this happens. You only have to look at Winterton South Dunes to realise what a detrimental difference quick growers like ‘Russian Vine’ can make.

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Sep 2022


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