Friday 8 June 2018

Nature in the heart of Norwich

A mass of ox-eye daisies by Canary Way.
For several years I have kept track of the fortunes of some bee orchids in urban Norwich. It all started by accident when I was cycling past and noticed both a bee orchid and a man with a strimmer. 

That conversation led to an annual visit to a patch of grass - now a wild flower meadow - outside Big Yellow Self Storage on Canary Way, opposite Norwich City FC’s football ground (for example Big Yellow bee orchids are back, June 2016).

Fast forward ten seasons and leaving the flowers to grow and bloom has become routine here – in a good way. Never mind the orchids – the show of ox-eye daisies is reason enough to stop and take a look. 

Of course ox-eye daisies are common on roadside verges, but somehow sandwiched between a garage and a supermarket alongside the inner ring road they have extra appeal. Not surprisingly the flowers were buzzing with bees when I took a close look on 5 June 2018.
Red-tailed bumblebee on an ox-eye daisy.

Bee orchid; this one has thrived despite being slightly strimmed.
Bee orchids like thin turf and have a way of popping up opportunistically in surprising and often infertile areas. 

The denseness of the daisies made me wonder if the bee orchids would be crowded out – in ecological terms as this bit of grassland micro-habitat moves to a later stage in its natural succession.

The reality was interesting. Only one bee orchid was among the uncut area with the ox-eye daisies. 

However there were six more in the adjacent area that had been rough-cut earlier in the spring – but cut long enough ago for the relatively late flowering orchids to grow.

It shows that wildlife has a capacity to surprise. So if you are passing The Meadow in the City, do stop and take a look. Better still, pop in and say thanks to the Big Yellow team for how they've helped nature.

Updates: 18 June, three Honeyguiders visit, find 12 spikes, and I know they missed one. 25 June, after hot, dry spell: ox-eye daisies like a bone-dry hay crop, 8 bee orchids spikes either gone over or last-lingering blooms.

Ox-eye daisies outside Big Yellow Self Storage.


  1. Excellent blog Chris and many thanks to you for starting the ball rolling here. I passed the site the other day and was taken aback by the raft of ox-eye daisies. Truly impressivešŸ˜

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Above simply said 'Thank you Barry'. is a story about some 2,000 bee orchids lost to cutting on roadside verges on the outskirts of Norwich. That's an exceptional swarm, but it also highlights the good management at Big Yellow Self Storage. As the updates above show, recent hot and dry weather means if you haven't seen the 'Big Yellow' bee orchids this year, better to save that trip for next year.


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