Fragrant summer arrives at Yoesden

Among the grassy banks, close to beech hanger woodland, islands of pink and purple have appeared. They’re reminiscent of the night lights on airport runways. But unlike airports, whose purpose is to take us somewhere else (or was – it seems so long ago now), these pink and purple indicators encourage us to linger. These are the orchids of Yoesden nature reserve, near Bledlow Ridge just outside High Wycombe.

The Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT), who manage the site, note that “Yoesden has changed little over the centuries”: sheep grazing in medieval times, bodgers (local craftsmen specialising in wood) in Victorian times. BBOWT bought this site in 2014, raising enough money from a public appeal to acquire three plots of land adjacent to the initial purchase.

Yoesden’s south-westerly aspect, descending steeply from the woods, enables plenty of sun to warm the slopes. The stars of the many plants which take advantage of these conditions are the orchids which appear in June. The common-spotted, the chalk fragrant- and the pyramidal orchid are all here, basking in the afternoon sun and gentle breeze. In addition to orchids, you may also spot the Chiltern gentian, kidney vetch and horseshoe vetch.

The last-named is significant as a foodplant for caterpillars of the Adonis blue, one of the scarcest of the 28 species of butterflies which inhabit Yoesden and probably the most spectacular. We didn’t see its brilliant blue wings on this visit, nor the paler small blue and chalkhill blue, but the marbled white, the comma and the tortoiseshell all flitted around us, along with several meadow browns, their single “eyes” seeming to wink.

By autumn the orchids and butterflies will have gone. But there’s plenty more to see in autumn, or the following spring, whether on the slope or in the woodland beneath the beech, whitebeam and yew trees. It’s a tranquil place to be: a reminder, after recent months, that not all of nature is out to get us.

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