5 Jun 2018

5 Jun 18 - Northern Triathlon: Part Three

This Post covers the third part of my Northern Triathlon. The first part of the Triathlon was seeing my first Mountain Ringlets at Irton Fell & the second part of the Triathlon was seeing my first White-faced Darters at Foulshaw Moss. The final part of the Triathlon was to try & see my first Lady's Slipper Orchids. A few days earlier, I had seen a Post from fellow blogger & mate Ewan Urquhart who had recently seen Lady Slipper Orchids at Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve, on a stop over on the way back from twitching a Walrus in Scotland. As usual, Ewan's Post was full of enthusiasm & nice photos. Looking at the location, I confirmed it was in Southern Cumbria, so there was a chance of being able to combine it with a trip to look for Mountain Ringlet. The only problem was would they be over. Ewan had seen them in late May & the Mountain Ringlets are early June at their first site at Irton Fell. Once I decided on the date to head off for the Mountain Ringlets, I double-checked the Lady's Slipper Orchid directions & confirmed I was likely to go right past the site. So all I needed to do was to find the time in a fairly busy day & hope they were still in good condition. This was more complicated as I was now planning to visit Foulshaw Moss to look for their White-faced Darters.
Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve
Gait Barrows NNR looks to be an interesting reserve & one that the flying visit that I was planning was far too short. However, I am fortunate that many of the other Spring Butterflies, that the reserve is home to, also occur in Dorset. It took a bit of driving up & down country lanes to find the reserve as I hadn't prepared a complete set of directions. But after a bit of searching I spotted the subtly marked entrance to one of the car parks. My timing was perfect as there were a couple of locals who had been taking visiting friends to see the Lady's Slipper Orchids, so I could double-check my directions. Fortunately, this confirmed my onsite directions were accurate & they said there were still two plants that were in good condition. It was less than a 15 minute gentle walk to the exact site.
Gait Barrows: There are a number of areas of open limestone clearings within the wood
They were easy to find once I reached the clearing: the roped off area helped to pick out the plants.
Lady's Slipper Orchid: The roped off area meant I didn't have to spend too much time looking
Lady's Slipper Orchid: Although roped off to avoid accidental disturbance, the rope is high enough so not to cause a big problem for photographers
Lady's Slipper Orchid: Unfortunately, most of the plants had already gone over, but two were still in good condition
Lady's Slipper Orchid: They are great looking Orchids
Lady's Slipper Orchid: The flowers are stunning
Lady's Slipper Orchids occur in temperate locations from Europe all the way across to Asia, although they are becoming scarcer in Europe. Their status in the UK has been even more precarious. Victorian collectors wiped it out in the UK & it was declared extinct in 1917. Then in 1930, a single plant was discovered at a private site in Yorkshire. There were also two known plants in captivity that had been taken from the wild before the plant had been declared extinct. After a lot of work with the surviving plants by Kew Gardens, Kew succeeded in cultivating seedlings. In 1989, Kew were able to start reintroducing seedlings back into the wild. The seedlings had been re-established at a number of suitable sites in the UK. However, only Gait Burrows has been publicly disclosed to allow ongoing protection to the remaining locations. Sadly, there are a number of maverick individuals who still think it's better for them to dig up plants for their own private collections.