The limestone pavement and surrounding limestone grassland of Helsington makes for an intoxicating mosaic of habitat, home to an enticing variety of scarce and rare wildflowers, including a particularly rich later summer orchid flora.
Chief amongst the orchids are spectacular numbers of Dark-red Helleborine Epipactis atrorubens, as featured in Leif Bersweden's botanical bestseller Where the Wildflowers Grow. Leif visited Helsington in the company of local botanist and European orchid expert Dr Richard Bate and, on this day trip, you can follow in his footsteps!
The Dark-red Helleborines are far from the only orchids we will see in fine numbers during the day - the area is also home to sweetly scented and delicate Lesser Butterfly Orchid Platanthera bifolia, and richly patterned Heath Spotted Orchid Dactylorhiza maculata.
Meeting at Helsington Church in the morning, we will spend the day on foot exploring the habitat of the area. A reasonable level of fitness will be necessary, though we should empasise that the pace will be gentle and we will have ample opportunities to stop and photograph the many beautiful orchids and other wildflowers we will encounter as the day unfolds. This is part of Richard's local patch, an area he knows like the back of his hand, and you could not wish for a better guide for a day of orchid-hunting in the English northwest.
Guests are asked to ensure that they wear sturdy and appropriate footwear, and in addition to their picnics and water also bring sunscreen, hats and insect repellant. Their reward for being intrepid and well-prepared will time enjoying a true botanical wonderland!
Guests may wish to make a weekend of it, and combine this day-trip with the Helleborines of Hutton Roof on Sunday 7 July, a day that will also feature many Dark-red Helleborines, and a high probability of encountering some of their more unusual and extreme colour forms.