On the way back from our Scotland trip, we overnighted at Eat Sleep Lindisfarne - just as Nick, Graham and I did after our Scoter dip last year. And we followed pretty much the same route as that day of heavenly helleborines, only substituting Newbiggin's Roseate Terns for Hexham's Bog Orchids. The other difference was substantive: we were too late. Sadly, Northumberland's helleborines were basically over. An early year had cost us. Lindisfarne Helleborines were identifiable, but merely shrivelled stumps - a surprisingly quick demise given photos of four in perfect nick just 10 days earlier. The nearby Marsh Helleborines were no better. We left Holy Island quickly, and headed south to Killingworth Cemetery on the outskirts of Newcastle. The purported 'youngiana'-type and standard Broad-leaved Helleborines were also worse for wear.
By this point the rain was searing down, and photography was a perilous business. So we largely didn't bother. We had a go at finding the apparent Dune Helleborines amazingly found and photographed here by Mark Eaton a week or so earlier. We found a couple of plausible candidates, but they were too far gone to really bother with claiming an identification. Damply, we moved onto see some sure-fire Dune (Tyne) Helleborines at Wylam. Frustratingly, even these were desiccated shreds - despite growing in the shade. This was the only plant attempting to keep a couple of flowers. I'm sure Will ticked it anyway...
From Tyne to tiny. We headed further inland, to a site on the moorland south of Hexham - "the arse end of nowhere", as Ian succinctly put it. Thanks to Mark Eaton's excellent directions, we soon enjoyed the bonsai delights of 15 Bog Orchids. All were growing in a flush on a slope, and all were far taller than any Bog Orchid I've encountered previously. Double the size: BOGOF, sort of.
Inevitably, almost all of the 300+ Dark Red Helleborines we found were over. A few scraped into the 'just about OK' category, and were duly savoured. Glorious plants: perhaps the best coloration of any orchid?
A butterfly target - for Will at least, who needed it - was also over. No Northern Brown Argus were seen. We received compensation in the form of several Marsh Fragrant Orchids, which were still just about OK. Doubtless another tick for the Boy Soar. BOGseveralF?
One final stop before the long drive south. We called in at Bishop Middleham Quarry.