Nature’s Summertime Treats (Part II)

Ray Armstrong

Spring may have sprung behind closed doors this year but summer brings its own seasonal delights to tempt us outdoors. In this series of blogs, we’d like to introduce you to some of nature’s best summertime treats that you can enjoy at our reserves.

Today, let’s go treasure hunting at Pentwyn Farm for some very special plants.

On the hunt for orchids

You don’t need to travel to far flung places to enjoy some of the most exotic-looking flowers in the plant kingdom. There are 16 species of orchid in Gwent and summer is a great time to see five of them at our Pentwyn Farm reserve – the Early Purple, Green Winged, Common Spotted, Common Twayblade and Greater Butterfly orchids. Will you spot them all?

What to look out for

To find the orchids, follow the waymarked trail through the hay meadows where the orchids live, along with a colourful host of other wildflowers. Some of the orchids will be easier to see than others so be careful not to trample any other flowers whilst looking for them. Here's some tips on how to spot them.

Common Spotted-Orchid

Common Spotted Orchid at Pentwyn Farm

Nanette Hepburn

Over 10,000 Common Spotted-Orchids flower here so their pale pink flowers, marked with mauve, should be the easiest to spot.

Greater Butterfly Orchid

Greater Butterfly Orchid at Pentwyn Farm

Nanette Hepburn

The Greater Butterfly Orchid’s delicate white flowers are shaped a bit like the open wings of a butterfly. Their ghostly pale flowers emit a strong smell after dark to attract moth pollinators.

Common Twayblade

Common Twayblade

Andy Karran

Common Twayblades are more of a challenge to see as their flower spikes are smaller with green-ish yellow flowers so are easy to overlook.

Green Winged Orchid

Green-winged Orchid at Pentwyn Farm

Nanette Hepburn

Green Winged Orchids can have either purple or white flowers and are named for the green-ish veins on the petals. They are at their peak in mid-May but there will hopefully still be some to see now.

Early Purple Orchid

Early Purple Orchid

Andy Karran

Early Purple Orchids are the earliest to flower in April and May. They have deep purple flowers and are most likely to be found in the shadier areas of the meadows, near the hedgerows. If you don’t spot them this time, why not come back again in the spring and try again? They’re worth the wait.

Got the bug?

If you’ve got the orchid-hunting bug and want to discover the remaining species found in Gwent then you’re in luck. Most of them can be found on our reserves and you can find out more about them in this previous blog.

A wildflower paradise

A visit to Pentwyn Farm is like stepping back in time to the way Britain’s farmed countryside used to be. This land has been farmed since at least the 18th Century, when the dry-stone walls and mature hedgerows you can still see today partitioned the land into small plots, used for arable farming, orchards and hay meadows. This low-intensity farming created an ideal environment for wildlife. The soil has not been enriched by modern fertilisers and it’s this nutrient-poor soil that is key to the success of wildflowers here.

Carrying on the tradition

We are continuing to use traditional farming methods to manage the land to make it even better for wildlife. We are keeping the soil of the hay meadows nutrient-poor by cutting late in the summer and using sheep and cattle for light grazing. We’ve also created an orchard using local varieties of fruit trees and are maintaining the hedgerows that provide important corridors for wildlife to travel along and food for insects, birds and mammals.

Read more about Pentwyn Farm Nature Reserve here

Help us keep our Nature Reserves open as a haven for wildlife and people!

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Our local green spaces are more important than ever before, as refuges for wildlife and calming breathing-spaces for ourselves. We have kept all our Nature Reserves open throughout the Spring lockdown. Whilst there the need to maintain and manage these precious places has never been greater, funds have never been less certain.

We need to raise around £350,000 each year to maintain our 30 Nature Reserves for the threatened and important wildlife they support and people who visit them. This year, we are facing a shortfall of £35,000.

If it weren't for the generous support of our members, Pat Gorvin's legacy, the support of players of the People's Postcode Lottery and other grants, this would be much higher. Please support us by making a donation or becoming a member, if you are able. We will be grateful for any support you can give to help maintain these precious places at this difficult time.