A walk in the Aude

AP6I9994 edit Fly Orchid tweetsizeIt’s been a while since last I blogged, and it’s been a busy while at that. A time of hummingbirds and orchids, largely – mainly laying down foundations for new writing projects, but with the happy one year anniversary of the publication of Orchid Summer, marked by Bloomsbury releasing it afresh in paperback, clad in a fresh cover as green as a newly minted oak leaf and a new review appearing in one of the national newspapers – many thanks to Peter Smith at The Guardian for his kind words.

AP6I0068 edit Man Orchid tweetsizeWhen I’m not writing, or researching the next piece of writing, these days I’m mostly leading wildlife tours. So far this year that’s involved some travel in the eastern Mediterranean and northern Greece – I’ll be returning to the latter shortly, and moving my centre of operations into the western Mediterranean as the summer unfolds.

AP6I9990 edit Woodcock Orchid crop tweetsizeFor now, I am briefly back in one of my favourite regions of France, the beautiful and varied Aude department. Home to Cathar castles, some delicious food and wine… and orchids. This visit is a short one – I’ll be back here for a longer spell as the year progresses – but for now it’s largely all about exploring and seeing what I can find off the beaten track.

AP6I9941 edit SLH tweetsize(The Aude is a well-established destination for European orchid-hunters, and certain locations are well-explored and well-known – I want to find some new stations for myself. This is easier than one might think, as the Aude is simply bursting with orchids wherever one looks – roadside verges are in a far better, more biodiverse state than we’ve become inured to seeing in the UK, and it’s even possible to find orchids as one drives through the countryside).

AP6I9861 edit Military Orchid tweetsizeFar better, though, to explore on foot. Yesterday was a case in point – a walk up into the foothills of the Pyrenees along a winding track yielded 13 species of orchid in the space of just a couple of miles. Some weren’t in flower yet – Lizard Orchids and Pyramidal Orchids remained in bud, while Lesser Butterfly Orchids were on the very cusp of coming into bloom – but many others were, and gloriously.

AP6I9933 edit Lady Orchid tweetsizeI could never get bored of Lady Orchids – they will always have the glamour of rarity for me, having first seen them in Kent where they have their English stronghold. Yet in France they are commonplace – but I find myself unable to pass any of them by without at least a second glance. They acted as a sea anchor on my voyage into the hills, present every few yards, distractingly so.


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