Orchids return to Suffolk estate

ORCHIDS which have lain dormant for up to 80 years have begun flowering again on a Suffolk farm estate.The early purple orchids have been found on the 6,000-acre Helmingham Estate, near Ipswich.

ORCHIDS which have lain dormant for up to 80 years have begun flowering again on a Suffolk farm estate.

The early purple orchids have been found on the 6,000-acre Helmingham Estate, near Ipswich.

Lord Tollemache, whose family owns the estate, said: "We coppiced the woodlands a few years ago and, as a result of the ground being exposed to more light, the flowers have started to re-appear."

He has also solved the mystery of why some of the flowering heads of the orchids disappeared.

"At first we thought they were being picked by someone but we eventually discovered they were being eaten by deer," said Lord Tollemache.

The plants are now surrounded by makeshift wire netting guards, which will stay in place until the flowers are able to seed.

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The Helmingham Estate, where four other species of orchid are found, is also playing its part in preventing the extinction of water voles, now on the Government's endangered species list, mainly as a result of loss of habitat and predation by wild mink.

The voles inhabit the banks of the moat surrounding Helmingham Hall's walled garden - an area inaccessible to mink, which are now commonly found in most of East Anglia river valleys and their adjacent networks of dykes.

The banks also provide homes for slow worms while newts inhabit the moat itself.