One of the easily overlooked gems of the South Downs National Park is the diminutive but very beautiful orchid the Autumn Lady's Tresses (Spiranthes spiralis). It's aptly named too, with the spirals of white flowers usually appearing at the start of September. As is so often the case with chalk grassland plants, it is necessary to get your knees dirty in order to fully appreciate their fascinating world in miniature. The plants are usually only between 5 cm and 15 cm tall and favour thin, warm, chalky soils in areas of short, well grazed grass.
On 5th September, which certainly felt like the last day of summer, I came across an unusual abundance of this orchid in Anchor Bottom, near Beeding Hill. Hundreds of Autumn Lady's Tresses can be seen on the south-facing slopes here (Grid Ref TQ203093), which is Access Land (CROW 2000) reached via a path at the northern end of Dacre Gardens. Now is the time to enjoy them, while they are accompanied by the last of the season's Adonis Blue butterflies, but you'll have to get your eye in before they start to give themselves up.
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