The tracks and fields around Arçais have produced in the past some interesting orchids. Mind you, we’ve had to get the timing right. One year we discovered Pyramidal and Lizard Orchids along one of the excellently organized bicycle routes, only to discover that the following day they had been fauchaged [mowed] by workers of the Marie [Town Hall]. Shame! This was just the rough grass beside an otherwise unused bicycle track, for Darwin’s sake. With intermittent cloud cover and a lack of harsh shadows, we set off to see what Francine could find this late/cold spring.
We began by finding some poppies lurking in the borders of crop fields. Francine went for a mottled blue sky backdrop. I had to do something to amuse myself while Francine was playing so the flower amateur tried a poppy against the background of the cornfield, or whatever the heck they‘re growing here. Botanist, I am not but even I like playing with poppies armed with a camera. (Could’ve done with just a tad more depth of field to get that further back seed head in focus as well.)
Further round our route – we were heading for a dragonfly pond as well – we took an unintended detour. Our mistake turned out to be fortuitous. We ended up cycling, quite unintentionally, past a Parc Ornithologique. Opposite the small road and parking area outside its entrance was a meadow. The meadow was peppered with literally hundreds of Pyramidal Orchids, together with dozens of Bee Orchids and a handful of yet-to-come-into-flower Lizard Orchids. It was quite a sight. We spent some time seeking out individual specimens. One white Bee Orchid particularly attracted Francine’s attention. Most Orchids, maybe even most flowers, I’m told, have a white derivative. [I’ve included an example of a Lizard Orchid from the bicycle track that was in bloom.]
Our friend Linda had expressed an interest in seeing a decent orchid location. What could be better than this richly flowered meadow? The following day we set out to take Mike and Linda to our discovery and show them. We navigated Mike around our unintentional detour and approached. Disbelief mingled with shock. Grass stems were laying flat. There was no height to the meadow. Someone had been around and mowed it all flat. We parked and got out. Now we could see that the cut grass was dotted with the purple heads of scythed Pyramidal Orchids. It had clearly only just happened; we could see that nothing was yet wilted and the culprit tractor was now across another road mowing another field.
The ladies gathered what would normally have been an illegal bunch of wild orchids to put in water. Looking a little harder, the girls also found a few slashed Bee Orchids to add to their booty. This was not the Mairie playing fast and loose with their grass verges, this was a farmer with a hay meadow but what a crying shame that this wonderful orchid meadow had been cut down before any of the plants could mature and produce seeds to propagate. Such a resource would be protected in the UK and, indeed, we have witnessed very careful mowing at another French campsite, mowing that carefully avoided the Serapias [Tongue Orchids] that were growing there. Here, however, even if they had wanted to, avoiding all the widely scattered individual flowers would have been impossible.
Heavy hearted, we tried to call in to a local goat farm to sample the cheese but that was closed, too.