During a zig-zag walk around Minchinhampton Common yesterday my wife, Mary, and I counted about 150 bee orchids in various patches, including some containing ~30 plants within a 10 meter diameter circle. The photograph shows some of the orchids from a patch along side the east side of the Burleigh road. This morning we came across another patch of ~30. Not our find, just curiosity about a photographer bending over in the grass just the other side of the road (Reservoir side) from Tom Long's post. He told us about a Wasp Orchid on the Bulwarks - so off to find that as soon as the rain stops! Thanks whoever you are. Watch this space. (Wasp Orchids are a variety of Bee Orchids but with a more elongated flower coming to a distinct point. We had one in our garden a few years ago.)
For such a spectacular plant, they can be surprisingly difficult to see until you almost trip over them, and of course they seem to be most abundant away from routes commonly used by walkers, hence our decision to keep to the longer grass yesterday. (Mary is much better than me at spotting the plants.) The patch in the photograph is about 10 meters away from where we normally cross the road in our regular circuit of the Common - but we have probably never crossed at that exactly that point in our previous two decades of doing this walk. We assume that there are still a good many patches that we have not yet managed to find. We had visions of Minchinhampton Wild-Walkers doing a systematic survey by slowly walking the entire Common in line-abreast and annoying the hell out of the golfers. (Perhaps not such a good idea after all.)
Unfortunately, we do not have any systematic information from our previous year's attempts to find Bee Orchids so we do really know if it is a good year, or just that we have got better at looking.