Sunday 17 June 2012

Billacombe - 14th June 2012

It is amazing what you can find out by tapping away on the internet. I stumbled across finding out about the bee orchids at Blagdons Meadow in Plymouth and from there found out about the pyramidal orchids at Billacombe in Plymouth. I was trying to find out more about the pyramidal orchids when I came across an environmental report for the Billacombe area commissioned by Persimon Homes who are planning to build houses in the area on the site of an old quarry by Chelson Meadow. Apparently there is a colony of dingy skipper butterflies in the area along with pyramidal orchids, slow worms and common lizards. Recommendations for minimising the environmental impact of the building work on the area include transplanting the orchids to a protected area by removing layers of turf and moving the reptiles to protected areas too. While walking around the area I came across squares of roofing felt pegged down with metal pins and all numbered and under one felt square I found a slow worm - unfortunately the flash was on and I managed to get a poor photo before the slow worm disappeared from view. I guess these squares are part of the surveying work being undertaken or are part of the reptile relocation scheme.

Slow Worm

A walk around the area was interesting, it is not far from where I live and I regularly travel along the road bordering the area but it is shielded by trees and so is not visible from the road.  The area consists of grassy fields with mown edges and mown fields with grassy edges, hedgerows, scrubland and woodland. The weather was foul and I was soaked through by the time I got home but I would imagine it would be an excellent site for invertebrates in good weather. I failed to find any pyramidal orchids but I did see some Southern marsh orchids along with plenty of yellow rattle.

Southern Marsh Orchid

Southern Marsh Orchid

Bird wise it was quiet with a whitethroat, chiffchaffs and blackcaps heard. A kestrel, a buzzard and a jay were seen overhead and 2 juvenile and an adult great spotted woodpecker flew between the trees.

I will have to revisit the area in better weather to try to find the elusive pyramidal orchids and to check out the insect life if the weather ever actually improves. It is a shame that some of the area is soon to be built on but I guess it is prime land near to Plymouth city centre and at least some of it will be left untouched.

As a footnote one of my cacti has flowered despite the cool, overcast weather, the first time it has flowered for a few years now, and I found a new moth species in the sluice while working a night shift in the form of a purple clay.

Flowering Cactus

Flowering Cactus

Purple Clay


  1. Just returned from Billacombe quarry, June 26th.
    saw a large group of Bee orchids, 36, + single ones, ! meadow brown and 1 pyramidal orchid.
    I hope the Bee orchids will be transplanted.
    ? do you know.

    1. I am not sure if the bee orchids are part of the transplantation, they are mentioned as being seen occassionally in the area but that is all. Will have to go look for the pyramidal orchids again.