Introduction

Wild Time

Spring

Feel the beat of spring

Be dazzled by bluebells

Harken to a bittern's boom

Seek a swooping sand martin

Pen poetry among daffodils

Sway with dancing grebes

Get sent packing by a grouse

Take a ringside seat

Track down a tiger

Watch a rare sky dance

Chatter with a natterjack

Enjoy the great rush north

Look up in awe

Shine a light on newts

Eavesdrop on a nightingale

Go spotting early orchids

Follow a sat-tagged osprey

Gape at hunting hobbies

Nurse a passion for purple

Scour riverbanks for Ratty

Tip-toe among fritillaries

Summer

Hail the success of avocets

Go batty as night falls

Bewitched by a buttercup

Play the summertime blues

Thrill to damsels and dragonflies

Go after Dartford warbler

Make a splash with gannets

Stake out a badger sett

Hurrah for the king

Rejoice in Manxie's chorus

Delight in a glow worm

Fall for THE fastest bird

Be spellbound by orchids

Journey to a seabird city

Exalt at a skylark's song

Party with the puffins

Lounge with a lizard

Haunt a churring nightjar

Head seawards on safari

Discover the rare spoonbill

Join the toadlet exodus

Spot our largest butterfly

Wear a hat for terns

Hunt woodland beauties

Autumn

Admire our eager beavers

Marvel at migration

Forage for Autumn's bounty

Go nuts over squirrel nutkin

Ramble through purple

Gaze in awe at reds' rut

Wander in the wild wood

Cheer on the salmon run

Try a wild goose chase

Foray for fungi

Winter

Pay homage to the Russians

Go on a winter ghost hunt

Wonder at wintering waders

Fall in love with a seal pup

Hear Britain's tallest bird

Revel in roosting wagtails

Kiss beneath mistletoe

'Ooh' & 'aah' at murmurations

Lie in wait for an otter

Rock 'n' roll with geology

Wrap up for a raptor roost

Go spotting early orchids

Early purple orchids © Jim Higham

Spikes of purple with spotted leaves adorn our spring grasslands and woods.

With the help of the weather forecast, do your best to dodge those April showers 

Orchids have a glamour and appeal all of their own, a touch of the tropical in the English countryside.  Of the 50 or so species that are native to the UK, some are our most sought after rarities, found only in a select handful of special places.  But others are still common and widespread, if only we knew where (and most importantly, when) to look for them.

As its name suggest, the spring flowering of the early purple orchid heralds the start of the orchid season.  From April through to the end of June, the lush carmine purple flowers and broad, dark-spotted leaves of the early purple orchid are a feature of sunny ancient woodlands (often flowering amongst the carpets of bluebells), limestone dales and chalk grasslands, widely distributed from the Channel Islands to the isle of Unst and most places in between. Pollination is carried out by the buff-tailed bumble: once it is complete, the flowers start to smell like territorial tom cats!

How to do it

If you can’t get to the special places listed below…You might be under the impression that orchids are a rarity, only to be found in a select handful of secret spots.  While this may be true of some species, there are plenty of common and widespread species that can be found on road verges, in woodlands and marshes, on coastal clifftops, sand dunes or even popping up in garden lawns.  You just need to get out there and look.

Special spots

For what must count as one of the finest shows of early purple orchids, why not visit the limestone dales along the Wye valley in Derbyshire where it flowers in large numbers amongst the carpets of cowslips at Chee Dale and Miller's Dale quarry .

Avon,  Folly Farm

Cambridgeshire,  Hayley Wood

Cumbria,   Latterbarrow

Dorset,  Hibbit Woods

Essex,  Shadwell Wood

Gwent,  New Grove Meadows

Gwent,  Springdale Farm

Norfolk,  Lower Wood

Nottinghamshire,  Kirton Wood

Staffordshire,  Thorswood 

Wiltshire,  Vincients Wood

Early purple orchid close-up © Philip Precey

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