Sunday, March 22, 2015


Question - what is the connection between Mr and Mrs Andrews, a military orchid and a zeppelin raid in Suffolk? Don't know? No nor did I until a couple of weeks ago.  I'll explain.

Mr and Mrs Andrews, above as painted by Thomas Gainsborough, had a son, Joseph. Joseph was a botanist and an apothecary and his preserved plant and herbarium is the oldest in existence and is now housed in the Natural History Museum in London. Within that collection is the military orchid.

Military orchids are extremely rare and are only found in two areas of the UK including this part of Suffolk.  They grow on chalk.

Now I've lived in this areas for 22 years and I wouldn't have associated it with chalk.  What I did know though was that there are some very steep and out of character 'cliffs' throughout Sudbury and a couple of weeks ago a friend and I went to hear a fascinating talk about the chalk pits of Sudbury which explained it all!

The speaker explained how there had been 11 chalk pits in Sudbury and Great Cornard. Most of the pits had kilns to burn the chalk to produce lime and at one time the railway had sidings going into the pits to transport the chalk.  There were tales of possible tunnels between the pits too and of a zeppelin raid due to the glow from the kilns causing the pilot to think it was a far bigger town that it really was!

Today I walked a footpath between 2 of the pits, I wonder how many of the residents of this housing estate realise that they're living in an old quarry.  See the chimneys at the top of the picture? That house is on the original ground level.

On the other side of the footpath I could see the measures put in by Sainsbury's to hold up the cliff edge behind their store, which was build in a neighbouring pit, that's the roof of the store in the foreground.

Apparently if you go back in time far enough Sudbury was a coastal area and the cliffs would have resembled those of Dover.

As I was walking back from the footpath I saw this beautiful blossom - a real sign of spring :-)


Toffeeapple said...

What an interesting story. I do wish that we had lectures or such in my area.

That blossom is glorious isn't it?

Julie @Dragonfly Gems said...

Fascinating piece of history.. thanks for sharing. Very pretty blossom, love Spring :o)

chloris said...

I live near Sudbury and I didn' t realise that there were chalk pits there. There are some lovely orchids growing in the chalk pits round Little Blakenham but not military Orchids. I always thought they were just to be found near Mildenhall. Not long now and the Early Purples will be out.

Jo said...

What an interesting talk. I love hearing about the history of the area where I live, there's always something new to learn.

Anne Wheaton said...

I didn't know that Sudbury used to be a coastal town. I wonder if it will end up that way again in a few centuries.

Anna said...

A most interesting tale Su. Military orchids are new to me so I'm off to find out more.

Gina said...

Fascinating! Love those military orchids.

Anna said...

That's really interesting and isn't Spring emerging wonderful!