In Search of Wild Orchids

In Search of Wild Orchids

The Garango Peninsular 14-21 April, 2012

Vieste, a small and very picturesque town built on a limestone promontory facing the Adriatic sea at the far end of the Gargano Peninsular. This is on one of our longer walks.

The Gargano Peninsular has its own unique mix of plants and is especially famous for the possibility of seeing different wild orchids in April and May.

This was a new tour for me so everything was going to be as exciting and interesting for me as I hoped it would be for the group. However the success of the week did depend on the flowers being in bloom and there’s not much that a leader can do to influence nature!

So, day one, walk one: we were dropped off by the local bus and set off up a narrow track. I suppose we had gone no more than 200 metres when I realised I had lost half the group (which is fairly early in the week… even for me).

I turned round to see the other half following their colleagues by rolling under a barbed wire fence into a field of large pink daisies with blue anchusa, yellow euphorbias and a variety of different orchids. Some of the group just gazed and enjoyed the variety of plants surrounding them, others dashed around exclaiming with delight at each new find.

Cameras clicked, reference books were thumbed and I, as the leader, thought: “it’s going to be a good week”.

In the group were some real experts who were quite happy to share their knowledge and point out orchids such as the ‘pink butterfly’ or the ‘heart orchid’. The rest of us were always happy to learn more or simply to enjoy the general views of flowers in fields and woods.

During the week we walked in the beech woods of the forest of Umbra, along a pine ridges, on limestone uplands, sandy shorelines with coastal salt marshes, and along a pilgrim route of ancient cobbles. In each case we saw what we had come for: flowers of all sorts and sizes.

Because of the soft nature of the chalky cliffs there are some spectacular pillars, rock arches and caves/grottoes along this part of the coast.

But each day was different and each had its highlight (just to let you know where my level is, my favourite moment was when we found a dung beetle doing what its name implies and I have captured the moment for sharing!).

View from the sea as we all went out on a boat trip on the day off.

We lunched on a headland overlooking a turquoise sea, by a small pond with nightingales singing in the surrounding bushes, in a forest glade with cuckoos and, on our free day, we dined in a tavern where local wildflower petals were incorporated into the pasta dishes. As one client said “it was a week with many magical moments.”

So all my concerns were unfounded, the flowers were there and we enjoyed and explored the Gargano together. I would like to lead this tour next year and if so I will be ready to face the strange sight of clients rolling under a barbed wire fence into a pasture with the calmness that only comes from experience!

This shows a rock arch with a signal tower behind. These towers are seen all along the coast and were an ancient signalling system to warn about coastal raiders from Turkey.