Tuesday 6 June 2023

The Great Southwell Orchid Hunt

 Many many years ago, I decided to do a very stupid thing and walk to Southwell, town of my Alma Mater. I was interested then in visiting the Potwell Grasslands nature reserve, but frankly when I arrived after a two and a half hour trek through fields of intimidating cows, it had all turned out to be a bit of a disappointment.

I had arrived too early in spring - indeed it snowed that day - and there was nothing much to see.

This time, with more research having been done, I waited until early June, because this is when I had read there might be a few orchids about in the uncut meadows. This time, I wasn't going to wear shoe leather; I took the £2 bus.

As ever, when I arrived I marveled at how much had gone since my school days. Like, my entire school. A collection of fairly unattractive 60s buildings next to the Minster, all that remained was a green field, beneath which lies a large Roman villa with a temple complex thrown in. Once at risk of being developed for housing, the owner of the land granted it to the town in perpetuity so that the ruins would be preserved.

The Potwell itself is a weed choked beck which I was once pushed into when I had glandular fever, and the grasslands lie on the other side from the old school site. After a preliminary trot through a field which once housed the school cricket nets I entered the reserve proper, and it didn't take me too long to find what I was in quest of; a flower spike topped with pinky-purple blooms. 

A southern marsh orchid, as it turned out, a flower I've seen before once in my life, a solitary specimen in Beacon Hill Park. But here, there wasn't just the one, I could see several growing in the long grass. 

But this was nothing compared to what awaited me in the next field. 

In this field, they were everywhere you looked. Hundreds of them, nestled down beneath the taller buttercups that have put on such a show this spring. I never though I'd find such an orchard menu anywhere near here; yet here it was.

I think when it comes to nature writing, it is very easy to get horribly pretentious, and over-write like mad, and as an autistic person to be moved emotionally by a field or a building isn't really going to happen very much.

But even I knew this was a special sight, one I hope will be repeated in this corner of the world for many years. I even needed a quick beer afterwards.

That's how good it was!

All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 06.06.23


  1. Beautiful. We had one solitary orchid on the farm - it appeared every year and we awaited its coming with trepidation every year. Now I am no longer there I often wonder how it is doing. Nature is wonderful in your photographs mixing the purple of orchids with that golden yellow of buttercups (a most under rated flower in my opinion.)

  2. Indeed beautiful. I can't tell meadow orchids apart - if they look the same colour they are the same flower to me and that one reminds me of walking in the South Downs at this time of year (where there are areas resplendid in such gems).

  3. The orchids and buttercups are absolutely stunning! Gorgeous photos.

  4. Thank you so much, I am so glad to be able to show you this!