Britain’s rarest wildflower is the star attraction at the Wild About Orchids Festival at Kilnsey Park in the Yorkshire Dales.
The Lady’s Slipper orchid (Cypripedium Calceolus) was thought extinct until a single plant was rediscovered growing in a remote location in the Yorkshire Dales in 1930. Described today as Britain’s rarest wildflower, this beautiful orchid can be seen at Kilnsey Park’s Wild about Orchids Festival from 25 May to 2 June.
The orchid remains closely protected and thrives today, but the privately owned site is too fragile with viewing strictly prohibited. However, working with Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, a group called the Cypripedium Committee co-ordinates conservation work for the plant.
They protect the last known wild orchid and from it propagate new ones that are planted out across northern England. They have successfully reintroduced the orchid back into the countryside on a handful of sites, including the Kilnsey Estate, which is today one of the few places you can see the orchids in the wild. The wild plant is still guarded during its flowering period each year to prevent theft or damage. Its beautiful flower was much sought after and was dug up for gardens and collections as early as the 1600s. It was even sold on local market stalls in Victorian times.
Jamie Roberts, managing partner at Kilnsey Park, is the fourth generation of the Roberts family to live and work on the Estate. He has worked in conservation for 10 years, most recently as Director of the National Trust on the remote British territory of St Helena in the South Atlantic. There he was responsible for helping to save the Bastard Gumwood, the world’s rarest tree, from extinction.
Jamie said, “The Lady’s Slipper is a particular passion and fascination of mine and has been since childhood. I remember vividly being taken to see the orchid when I was a young boy. I wasn’t told where I was being taken, only that it was a very special plant and that I couldn’t tell anyone else about it. Even at a young age the flower struck me as being incredibly beautiful. I’m one of the lucky ones, because even today the site remains a secret to all but a handful of conservationists.”
The ‘Wild About Orchids’ Festival promises to be a fantastic feast of activities and fun with guided wildflower walks, children’s activities, ‘Meet the Expert’ events, a photography competition and a special ‘Orchid High Tea’ served in the Estate café.