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Monday, 25 May 2009

Military Beauties



After feeling a bit narked for missing last weeks Melodious warbler, I needed a pick me up and what better than a trip looking for some really rare and attractive orchids. I particularly wanted to get some sharp digital pictures of Military Orchids as taken and not "improved" using Photoshop! As Oliver Cromwell once memorably said when commissioning a painter to paint his portrait "Remark all these roughnesses, pimples, warts and everything as you see me, otherwise I will never pay a farthing!"
I think I know what he would think of Parliament's latest troubles and he would condemn them vociferously and another famous Oliver Cromwell quote springs to mind "In the name of God go!" but that's enough of politics.
Military Orchids are one of the "mannikin" Orchids where the flower or sepal resembles a human figure and its Military name stems from the "coal scuttle style helmet" which it wears on its "head" recalling to my mind (and another Oliver Cromwell link!), the helmets worn by the Roundheads during the English Civil Wars.
Also on the "body" of the sepal are 2 rows of dots "threads" running parallel down the "body" seemingly like buttons on a soldiers battledress.   
The Military orchids beauty coupled together with its extreme rarity in the UK (there only a couple of sites where the public can visit this magnificent Orchid species) make it a highly desirable species to see. Luckily, one of those sites is in Suffolk at the Rex Graham reserve near Mildenhall, managed by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust.
Unfortunately the reserve is open on only 1 day a year! That day is the Spring Bank Holiday Monday. This, indirectly, caused a three year wait before I could go down and photograph them, because if you remember the weather for the previous 2 Spring Bank Holiday Mondays, we had torrential rain that poured down all day (typical bank Holiday weather, or should I clarify that to typical Spring bank Holiday Monday weather!)
On Thursday of last week, according to the weather forecasters the weather for the Monday was predicted to follow the same course as the previous 2 years, but fortunately the forecast thundery rain was delayed. 
The weather in fact, turned out to be bright and hazy changing to cloudy conditions and I was able to visit the site deep in a Pine woodland glade. It was well managed by a number of SWT volunteers. Indeed, the scene when I arrived,  resembled the red carpet premiere of a Hollywood blockbuster movie with the "stars" and substitute the Military Orchids for the "stars", being photographed by a myriad of photographers jostling for position (or rather quietly queuing and waiting their turn!) and a crowd of general admirers. The site has a series of walkways leading around the site and the SWT had even put a mat down for a special "photograph the orchids area", very considerate! 
A few Common Twayblades were also in evidence but were inevitably being overlooked by most visitors for their gaudy cousins.

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