Rare orchids return to secret location amid concerns about wildflower thefts

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Concerns have been raised about wildflowers, particularly orchids, being dug up and removed from the Druridge Bay area.

Orchids in particular are expensive to buy and Northumberland Wildlife Trust says the Northern Marsh, Bee and Common Spotted varieties on its Hauxley and East Chevington reserves are being targeted by members of the public.

This news comes just days after support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery has enabled the wildlife charity to bring the green-winged orchid back to Druridge Bay following an absence of over 50 years.

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Unfortunately, due to the increase in thefts, the exact whereabouts cannot be revealed.

Geoff Dobbins (NWT) and Bill Temple (Hardy Orchid Society) with the first green winged orchids.Geoff Dobbins (NWT) and Bill Temple (Hardy Orchid Society) with the first green winged orchids.
Geoff Dobbins (NWT) and Bill Temple (Hardy Orchid Society) with the first green winged orchids.

The National Trust in Morecambe Bay provided the seed, and Bill Temple, conservation officer at the Hardy Orchid Society, provided the expertise and organised volunteers to grow the plants in their own homes for three years.

The grassland plant, that gets its name from the green veins in the ‘hood’ of its flowers, would have been a familiar sight in hay meadows and dune slacks around Druridge Bay in days gone by.

However, the increasing demand for food production after the Second World War and the destruction of dune habitats through recreational use, resulted in a gradual decline until it completely disappeared from the county in the 1970s.

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Having worked hard to create and improve the habitat on the selected reserve in recent years, the wildlife charity believes the time is right for the orchid’s reintroduction, especially as the region’s popular spotted and marsh orchids are now threatened, not only by thefts, but by a new disease which has begun wiping out entire populations around the country.

Green-winged orchid. Picture: Lianne de MelloGreen-winged orchid. Picture: Lianne de Mello
Green-winged orchid. Picture: Lianne de Mello

Geoff Dobbins, Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s estates manager, said: “This is one of the more unusual, but worthwhile, projects, which, if it weren’t for People’s Postcode Lottery players, may have been put on the ‘back burner’ until alternative funding became available.

“However, its return is tinged with caution as it comes at a time when volunteers patrolling our reserves are finding more and more holes in the ground where plants used to be - removed by members of the public.

“Coming just weeks after vandals torched our pond dipping platform and boardwalk at East Chevington, such theft is very disheartening to our volunteers who work tirelessly to ensure all the reserves are in pristine condition.”