Surveyed on June 29th 2015

This survey covers 2 species of orchid :

  • Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis)
  • Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii)

Survey map

Various areas of the roadside verge around the interchange were surveyed. See accompanying survey map. The main events that had taken place affecting the orchids were the major road works to Hinksey Hill roundabout and the surrounding area in late 2014. Apart from the works themselves, contractors’ vehicles were parked on various area of the verge affecting the turf to a varying degree. However the number of flowering spikes of Pyramidal Orchids held up well in 2015 and in some places exceeded the 2014 figure. However where the spikes were very dense many of them were quite small. In all the areas except (c) and (d) (see below) mowing had not taken place before flowering, following the designation of some of these areas as Roadside Verge Nature Reserves (RVNRs) by Oxfordshire County Council (OCC). Prior to the roadworks, some turf was translocated to a new area immediately south of the Kennington Roundabout in late April 2014 (see OCC document “Hinksey Hill Interchange Grassland Translocation Method Statement” dated March 2014). However no orchids were seen in 2014 or 2015 either in the new area or the area from which the turf was taken. It is possible that the turf was cut too shallowly for the plants to be included in it. The 7 spikes of Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera) seen in the Hinksey Hill Triangle (area (g)) in 2014 were not seen in 2015.

The areas surveyed have been marked on the map with the letters (a) to (i) inclusive. These are almost but not quite identical to the 2014 areas and the results in these areas are described in more detail below. All counts refer to Pyramidal Orchids except where designated as Spotted Orchids.

(a)  This is the wider part of the long thin triangle south of Red Bridge Hollow and recorded 330 spikes, a 50% increase over 2014. The colour variation noted in 2014 was again apparent but the spikes overall were generally smaller.

(This verge is just recovering from roadworks disturbanceb)  This is the narrowing area to the east and recorded no orchids at all. It was seriously affected by the road works in late 2014 and the surface was just recovering from being badly damaged. It was from here (the small area outlined) that an area of turf had been translocated to a receptor site just south west of Kennington Roundabout, and as stated above, no orchids were seen in either location.

(c) and (d) These areas immediately to the west of (a) on either side of the path were mown before the 2015 flowering and recorded no orchids.

(e)Pyramidal orchids are recovering on some damaged areas.  Thick  scrub is encroaching.This area south west of the A34 exit slip road did better than in 2014, recording 400 spikes (a 33% increase) plus 6 spotted orchids (down from 15 in 2014), although thick scrub is still fast approaching from the north. The very small triangle between this footpath and the roundabout (shown as (e’)) only recorded 6 spikes (down from 50), most probably due to the fact that it had been damaged by the parking of machinery connected with the road works.

(f)  This area recorded 40 spikes in all, 4 in the scrub plus 36 on the triangle corresponding to that of (e). This was 40% down on 2014. The scrub is much more extensive here than in area (e).

(g)Pyramidal Orchids were densely packed on the Hinksey Hill triangle  This is the small triangle at the foot of Hinksey Hill which was the first area to be designated a RVNR. It recorded 600 spikes (20% up on 2014) in the main area plus 22 to the west of the footpath running across it. There were also 10 spikes of spotted orchid (up from 3 in 2014) including one pure white one. This area continues to recover well after it was mown in 2012, although the orchids are growing amongst a considerable number of other flowering plant species and were generally denser and some of them were smaller this year.

(h) & (i). These small areas recorded a total of 46 orchids, up from 20 in 2014, although areas on the edge of the scrub to the south of the footpaths were included for the first time and would have added to the total.

The roundabout itself was not surveyed due to the fact that there was no safe access. A few spikes were noted from a bus, mainly on the north side. However the scrub was very close to the edge of the roundabout and the number of spikes had almost certainly diminished. Once again no orchids were seen on the steep slope to the west of and bordering the northbound A34 exit slip road, at the bottom of the map, following treatment in 2014. In previous years there had been a good display here. This area is the responsibility of the Highways Agency and not OCC.

In conclusion the following points were noted:

  1. The number of Pyramidal Orchid spikes continues to increase but increasing density is affecting their size.
  2. There has been very little early mowing this year. Although the orchids seem to recover from mowing eventually, it remains to be hoped that early mowing does not take place regularly, as this will most probably affect the long term survival of the species.
  3. After a further year the translocation in conjunction with the road works does not appear to have been successful as hoped in terms of relocating Pyramidal Orchids. However OCC is to be commended for taking this important conservation matter on board, producing the translocation document and carrying out the work.

Report prepared by Michael Bloom on July 17th 2015