Posted by: lensweb | June 10, 2014

Orchid Wood with Brian Hobby

Come with Brian Hobby to Orchid Wood at 7pm for an evening stroll.  From Draycott take the Sawley Road to the car park at Orchid Wood (SK455324) to look for orchids in the wood and birds on St Chads Water at Church Wilne.

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust local group were visiting Orchid Wood last night so I decided to hitch a lift. There was a light mizzle as we entered the wildlife site and everyone was eager to see the pond life advertised on the noticeboard. The wood was previously a gravel and sand pit called Elvaston Quarry, but the quarry was filled in with fly ash and capped with soil. Amenity planting of an interesting selection of trees and shrubs, 10,466 in total, was carried out in 1997 and 1998 by Groundwork on behalf of Erewash Borough Council. The site design also incorporated a grassland community and an orchid glade. It took many years for the trees to get well established, but now the reserve has matured we can see oak, willow, silver birch, white poplar and aspen in dryad finery and so the wildlife site deserves it’s woodland status.

Trees and Woodland Flowers at Orchid Wood 5 June 2014









Fly ash is an alkaline industrial waste known to support unusual plant communities. In 1997 orchids ‘under threat’ from an established fly ash plant community at Measham and Dagenham were translocated to Orchid Wood. The top soil was removed  from a 15x20m2 area to provide like conditions with the site of origination. 0.5m high top soil bunds to the east and west helped to define the area and contain water as there was concern that the receptor site was drier than the origination sites. Long Eaton Community School pupils were enlisted to help plant 50 sacks of orchid rich turf and soil material. Where the turf definitely contained an orchid tuber on planting, a galvanised metal nail was driven into the ground next to the tuber. So that by using a metal detector it would be possible in future years to establish where the original orchids were planted. Local monitoring showed the project was a great success and for years a colony of southern marsh orchids established and seeded ever wider into the site. Some of these orchids were super giant plants showing hybrid vigour as the southern marsh orchids cross fertilised with the common spotted orchids.   The hybrid orchids have a divided lower lip to the flower with a central tooth whereas the more pure southern marsh orchids have an undivided, broad lower lip. In common spotted orchids the lower lip is divided with a prominent central tooth and the leaves are often dark spotted.


Following a winding path mowed through long grass the cry went up ‘Orchid! and the amethyst flowers of southern marsh orchid were admired. Sometimes it is unkindly called, the cabbage of the orchid world, due to the leaves which I think, resemble those of a tulip. We soon spotted another group of Draycott exotica, expecting hundreds in the main site. On this visit, the orchid glade had only 5 flowering stems of ‘pure’ southern marsh orchid. The succession of flowering is southern marsh, then hybrids, then common spotteds so we should see more orchids over the next few weeks. Altogether we counted 50 flowering stems on the whole site. The Michaelmas daisies that were incidentally introduced from the Dagenham site are still present in the excavated area

Southern marsh orchid orchid wood 5 june 2014










This nature reserve needs yellow rattle’ muttered Brian,’ to slow down the grass’, but in among the long grass were cherry lips, the small but perfect scarlet pea flowers of grass vetchling, an uncommon plant which thrives in the semi-shade.

Grass vetchling orchid wood 5 June 2014











A very wet drinker moth caterpillar was feeding on the grass blades.  These are the very large hairy caterpillars which the cuckoo likes to eat, indeed a cuckoo had been lording it over the meadow the week before the club visit.  In fact, every caterpillar we saw was a drinker moth, it got embarrassing, but it proves the point that they do like the rain.

Drinker moth larva orchid wood 5 June 2014











We splashed through the woods out of the north-west side of the reserve and followed a bridleway  south towards St Chads Water.  A chaffinch chipped and the liquid tones of the blackbird set us off ‘Blackbird singing at the dead of night’ who would not enjoy that Beatles classic? On the way we saw three climbing plants. Hops were trailing across the top of the hawthorns, a possible relic of a cottage brewery industry. White bryony in the hedge, common locally, is the only representative of the melon family in the British flora. Nearby were the dark green shiny heart shaped leaves of black bryony, the only representative of the yam family. Faith thought this would be good for flower arrangements. Alan said ‘these 2 bryonys mean you are south of Derby because white bryony doesn’t grow to the north’. Alan is the Botanical recorder for Derbyshire and he got quite a few ticks tonight, with especial satisfaction when we reached the car park at St Chad’s where he found our favourite fern grass and a lot of squirrel tail fescue.


St. Chad’s church is a beautiful 13th-15th century church. It’s isolated situation arose because in times gone by almost the entire village moved a mile or two up the road to Draycott, which is less prone to flooding.   The sky was lowering and early to darkness, mist swirled over St. Chads Water. At the far side of the pond we had lost our view, the trees had grown so high that we could only just see the turret tips of the ancient church across the water. Brian was a bit disappointed not to see more birds, but common terns were breeding on the floating platform so it more than made up for the lack of a pond at Orchid Wood.


Marion Bryce 4 June 2014


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