Archives for posts with tag: orchid

It wasn’t brilliant for photography at the weekend, pretty cloudy, so you might have to excuse the pictures, but I was thinking about what seemed like the early flowering of the elder this year and it prompted me to take a walk in Valewood. Its on the north western flank of Black Down, you may remember its where the ridge pole and wall plates for our building came from, a walk through the northern fields should lead you towards Winding Meadow if you are interested.

Winding Meadow is always a treat when it comes to orchid flowering time, ordinarily I wouldn’t bother going to look for another couple of weeks, but when I got there I was in for a surprise.

Thousands of orchids greeted me. They do seem to me to be flowering a couple of weeks early, I suppose it could just be because of the warm start to the year, or it could be as some think a sign of the changes in climate we might be starting to experience. I don’t know what the answer is, but wonder if there may be some interplay between the two things. It certainly makes you think about the way we are living our lives at the moment.

But, leaving that aside, you have to think there is nothing quite so pretty as this many orchids all in one spot.

Orchids are clever things, some of them attract polintors by having flowers which resemble female insects, others still give no reward in terms of nectar and have a mechanical mechanism which deposits pollen on the insects back where it cannot reach it but from where it will polinate the next flower visited. They are living evolutionary masterclasses.

Most of those at Valewood are either Heath or Common Spotted Orchids, allthough I am told the two can hybridise. Sadly even the so called Common Spotted Orchid is not seen as much as it once was, a reflection on the intensification of agricultural production. Its not all bad news though. Valewood recently went through a long period of conversion to become registered as an Organic holding. In cooperation with our tennants from Rother Valley Organics it is managed without artificial pesticides or fertilizers in a way that both produces some pretty fine beef, and allows the wildlife to flourish.

In amongst the orchids there were all sorts of other little gems to be spotted.

I remember being told by a certain well respected conservationist that whenever you spot this little plant you know you are somewhere pretty interesting.

Its a Lousewort, a funny looking plant in some respects, its semi parasitic, taking nutrients from the roots of other plants. I reckon she was right though, wherever you see this there are usually some other interesting species to be found.

I was also pleased to see the ladies smock still flowering.

Its one of the main larval food plants of the orange tip butterfly, which I am told is having a good year. Here is a picture of one I took a couple of years ago.

The orchids were great, but I am just as easily pleased by some of our more common species of wild flower, lesser stichwort is one of my favourites, its so tiny, each flower is only about 5-10mm across. The petals look really delicate in amongst the grasses.

Quite a comparison with a big brassy oxeye daisy.

Turned out it was well worth going for that walk, even if it was a cloudy day. If you are local I would recomend having a look around Valewood in the next few weeks, it really is quite spectacular at the moment.

Today we have been working in Valewood, felling and extracting the ridge pole (it runs along the middle of the top of the roof) wall plates (they run along the edges of the roof) and some beams for the Speckled wood building.

These should hopefully (unless we have forgotten anything or make any mistakes when sawing!) be the last trees we need to fell for the building.

These are larch trees, a deciduous form of conifer, by which I mean they shed their needles in the winter. They are native of the high mountain places in mainland Europe and the far east. Its thought they evolved the ability to shed their needles so they don’t get too heavily burdonned with snow, this enables them to grow higher in the mountains than other species.

Larch is a pretty durable type of softwood, which is one of the reasons it has been extensively planted for forestry in the UK. Like all softwood plantations this one in Valewood requires regular thinning in order firstly to encourage the remaining trees to grow on to their potential, but also to ensure it doesn’t become a desert for wildlife. In this wood where it has been thinned over the years there are some really nice patches of wood sorrell growing.

Its another of my favourites, its leaves are a really nice edible adition to a wild salad, and its flowers always look so delicate in the spring sunshine. Its quite a clever plant as well, it has evolved the ability to fold up its leaves and petals at night to protect itself against frost, one of the dangers of flowering in March during the gap before the leaves grow on the trees.

These are the longest timbers in the building, and getting them back to Swan Barn Farm is going to be a bit of a challenge. They had the first part of their journey today.

They had to be winched out of the woods, skidded through two fields and another wood and then across a small bridge…

The picture above also incidentally shows them leaving West Sussex and entering Surrey as they cross the small stream which is the first tributary of the River Wey.

When we got them into the main meadow on Chase Lane they were stacked up to wait for the next part of their journey.

That will come next week when we borrow a big hay bale trailer to get all the long timbers back to the build site, I am looking forward to that as its going to be another challenge!

It was a really beautifull day today at Valewood, it was nice to see the plantation grown wood going to such a local project, its only half a mile or so from Swan Barn Farm. Normally I don’t get involved emotionally in the journey our timber makes, it seems that the shortest journeys can sometimes prove to be the most interesting. One of the great things about the new building for me will be looking at the timbers and knowing where they came from. These came from a plantation next to Winding Meadow in Valewood, Winding Meadow is one of the nicest fields we look after. When I look at these timbers I will be reminded of the stunning displays of orchids that come up there every summer.

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