East Kent Orchid Tours


The main flowering period for Orchids in Kent is from mid May to the end of June although species flower before and some after these dates. Any tours are run to coincide with the maximum number of species in flower. Between 17 and 20 species can be expected at this time of year.

2014 Orchid tours will only run to June 4th due o foreign tour starting on the 6th. I will try next year not to go away at this time.

There are no set dates as such but tours can be organised by arrangement but are subject to availability bearing in mind this is also a busy period for our foreign bird tours.

Please e-mail: john@sandwichbirdtours.co.uk with a phone number so a pick-up point and time can be arranged. Transport for up to 3 people can be provided, after which other arrangements will be made.

As each tour is likely to be unique in its requirements, details of rates, lunch arrangements and timings will be discussed by phone at the time of inquiry.

Don't forget your camera!

Kent Orchid Photos:

A new series of Orchid photos can be found on my Flickr site which can be acccessed by clicking on the Tiger photo on the front page of this site.

Customer Testimonials:

Anne from Carisle wrote:

'In the middle of June my sister-in-law and I had a wonderful day out with John looking for orchids. We found 17 different ones as well as two broomrapes.
Anne from Carlisle.'

Steve and Ann wrote:

Thanks again for a great Orchid Day. We both enjoyed ourselves enormously. A great intro to your area and to orchid hunting. Im off to some local reserves today!!

John wrote:
Now back at home and downloaded my Orchid Images. I should like to express my very considerable appreciation for the fantastic day you put on last thursday, what a magnificent foray into the fields to explore the Orchids of Kent. A total of 14 I belive, shame that the Lizard Orchid didn't perform to your expectations but given the weather we've experienced this year I was delighted to see so many species in one day. Many many thanks for your excellent hospitality and expertise in providing such a splendid day

Peter and Jane commented:

Thanks John for the orchid tour last Saturday. Jane and I had a very enjoyable day.

John's tour enabled us to see many hundreds of orchids at five excellent sites in Kent, all in one day. His friendly and flexible approach ensured that we saw all the species we had hoped to find, including several rareties - with many ideal photograph opportunities

Henry from East Sussex wrote:

“A mesmerising day that will guarantee lifelong memories. John’s an exceptional pilot - quietly and methodically leading you to some of the most wonderful flower species in our kingdom. We managed to count 15 varieties of orchid and helleborine in a day, the vast majority in flower. Kent is unreasonably lucky in the diversity and profusion of its orchid species, so if you want to revel in their beauty, it’s to Kent you must come and to John you must turn for a guide.”

Best, Henry 5th June 2011

Joy wrote:

At the end of June Jim and I came to Kent from Scotland for a family gathering . We thought It would be a good opportunity to see some orchids on calcareous soil and contacted John. We had a great day out . John had been very fair and pointed out how dry it had been and we may not see much. But John is a great hunter and we were delighted with what we saw. We saw 12 species and got some great photos. We are determined to repeat the trip in May next year. Jim and Joy Deacon


The unusually warm and dry spring in East Kent has played havoc with the flowering periods of our orchids. Most have flowered early, some by as much as three weeks. Some have finished early. Lady Orchid started flowering in early May and are now finished at a time when one would expect plants in prime condition. However other species are looking great despite being early.

A tour round my usual sites on May 31st produced the following: Birds Nest (going over), White Helleborine (some good specimens and lots of them), Monkey (still in good condition), Fragrant (small and large ones in good condition, very early), Spotted Orchid ( mostly very small), Twayblade (many over), Greater Butterfly (about 8 in good condition), Fly (some spectacular specimens up to 18 inches tall, all fresh) Lady (all over), Broad-leaved Helleborine (some well advanced and healthy looking plants) Southern Marsh Orchid (in pristine condition, a little early), Pyramidal (some just showing flowers) Lizard Orchid (many and perhaps a little smaller than normal but in good condition and already flowering, very early) and most amazingly Marsh Helleborine (with a couple already in bud. Extremely early)

I understand that Man Orchid is looking good too but beginning to go over too.

Most Clove-scented Broomrapes have burnt off but Common Broomrape showing well.


Mike commented 28.05.12

We had a really great day with you on 22nd May, and I must thank you for your courtesy and can I say friendship? I had seen a number of fairly rare orchids before meeting up with you, and would have been happy to see just one that I had not seen before, so seeing three new ones in full bloom was very special for me. You showed us around at our own pace, and waited while I took endless photographs, which I must say I am very pleased with. I was also able to get better pictures of those other orchids you showed us, that I had seen before.
I wouldn't hesitate to recommend your tours to anyone - not just orchid hunters but anyone who enjoys the countryside. I would think that bird tours with you would be equally rewarding. I have mentioned you to a number of friends here in Cambridgeshire, so I hope you hear from them soon. Have a good trip to Estonia.

Best wishes,

Janet and Mike Crofts.


A ten hour round trip of some of the main orchid sites in East Kent today resulted in a record 20 species being recorded. A strange year with some species lingering on late and others being late coming, while some may be considered early.

We started the day with some Lizard Orchids (some robust plants still in bud which should flower within the next week or two), a single Man Orchid and some lingering Green-winged Orchids. We moved on to a site for Birds Nest Orchids which looked good and plenty of them and a good number of White Helleborines still in bud.

Next a superb display of Monkey Orchids, some very large specimens, Fragrants still in bud, Some Fly Orchids and a Broad-leaved Helleborine (just the rosette only as expected). Some Early Purple still good enough to photograph. Further on 100s of superb Lady Orchids, some Greater Butterfly now in full flower, White Helleborines in full bloom and a few Common Spotted beginning to show. Twayblade ofcourse everywhere.

We moved on to find a couple of lovely Bee Orchids, a fantastic display of a dozen large Man Orchids and about 20 or so magnificent Late Spider Orchids. Again we moved to try and find the Early Spider Orchids to complete the set and about 40 were found and still in good condition too.

To go for the record (previously set at 17 species) we returned to our starting point and found a couple of Southern Marsh Orchids beginning to flower and rosettes of Marsh Helleborine and Pyramidal Orchids.

Clove-scented and Common Broomrapes were seen too.

Butterflies included Peacock, Large White, Orange Tip, Common and Holly Blues, about a dozen Dingy Skippers, 5-6 Duke of Burgundy Fritillaries and 3 Green Hairstreaks.

A great day out.

Mark Sewell wrote: 29.05.12

There are good days, brilliant days and days that you remember for the rest of your life. Our Orchid expedition last Monday I will remember forever. 20 different species of Orchid. A better introduction to the beautiful orchids of Kent one could not find. Thank you so much John for a perfect day.

Karenina wrote: 29.05.12

A tour that will be enjoyed by any naturelovers, not just botanists (which we are not). The Orchids are so spectacular and varied, but John pays attention to any other wildlife that is around, which included a very large Slow Worm. We saw so much, yet the pace was comfortable and leisurely. Plenty of time for photography, general admiration of the Orchids and some beautifully tranquil areas, with no sound other than the sea and a Skylark, in the woods a Turtle Dove and up on the cliffs a Yellowhammer. We had a magical day - so much recommended.

Karenina & Derek (Ben) BennettOrpington

David and Wendy commented 4 June 2012Many thanks for a great day out on Monday. It was wonderful to be able to see so many different orchids. The Late Spider Orchids in flower were such a thrill. Thank you again for so many orchids, 4 new ones, and the Duke of Burgandy Butterfly as well.

Thank you also for the bookmarks I never knew that Steve Cale had done Indian ones and it included Bandhavgarah as well.

All the best

David and Wendy

Mark Sewell and I spent another afternoon checking out a couple of sites

He wrote on 20.06.12

Again, a trip with John has uncovered the pure delights of Kentish Orchids. In one afternoon we visited, nationally the best known collection of the stunning Lizard Orchid mixed with beautiful Pyramidal and Bee Orchids. We visited a swathe of stunning Southern Marsh Orchid, saw the up and coming Marsh Helloborines that will soon burst forward to unveil their stunning show and uncovered a newly discovered population of Chalk Fragrants. We then moved a short distance to a second site and to our amazement uncovered 200 or more stunning Bee Orchids mixed amongst more beautiful Southern Marsh Orchids. A really stunning afternoon looking a these jewels. Great Orchids and great company, thanks John for a brilliant afternoon


I spent the first week in June in Estonia with a small group. It was actually a mammal tour but I did manage to find Military Orchids (common in the west), Lady's Slipper Orchids seen in the east but apparently common in the west also, probable Lesser Butterfly and Lesser Twayblades (both still in bud) and leaves of a Spotted Orchid.

Our trip was based in the east but a whole array of rare (to us) orchids can be found in the west.

I am therefore planning an orchid/mammal/bird tour for June of 2013. More details will follow soon. The mammals we saw were 4 Brown Bears (two photographed at close range from a hide), Raccoon Dog, Elk, Beaver and Flying Squirrel as well as Mountain Hare, Brown Hare, Pine Marten and Red Fox.

Details will follow soon, but if this should interest you, please contact me.

By the way, transport, guides, accommodation and food was second to none. It is a beautiful unspoilt, under populated green country.

LATEST NEWS 17 May 2013

Green-winged are now in full flower albeit very late, bit they caught very quickly. Early Spider too is flowering although quite small specimens at the moment, Early Purple is fully out and some Fly Orchids are already in flower. Some Lady Orchids are also in flower but these last a long time so there will be plenty more later in the month. Some idiot has mown some of the rosettes of Lizard Orchid on the roadside but fortunately there are plenty more. I am looking forward to the full array of species at the end of the month.


Good morning John,

Just to say thank you for such a great day on Thursday, I really enjoyed it. You were so knowledgeable and interesting to listen to, and it was thrilling to see so many orchids in one day. I think my favourite site was the beech wood, in that I was so surprised by what we found there. An amazing sight to behold in the gloom of the wood. Thank you for sharing your love of orchids with me and making it such a memorable day. I will return to the orchids with my tripod and take some considered macro shots. When I have written my blog I will send you the link, hope your next tour is successful with the promised warm days I am sure you will find more wonderful specimens.

You may well hear from me again when we have checked our finances, and see which overseas tour appeals to us for next year.

Kind regards,


Melanie refers to a spectacular display of Birds Nest Orchids and White Helleborines on May 30th, although neither were flowering properly yet. Things really are very late this year due to the cold spring. Lady Orchids were tremendous and a few Monkey were flowering and many more in bud. Some nice Fly Orchids, and many Man Orchids mostly still in bud but beginning to open up. One Greater Butterfly in flower in a wood was a surprise as the ones in open country were still in bud. Orchid tour

I did not have time to do a full days tour due to circumstances beyond my control. However John took me round to the (rare) species I wished to see. En Route he showed me meadows and woods full of Orchids of a large variety of species, many more than I have seen before. The highlight for me other than the rarities was a small wood full of Birdsnest orchids and the largest White Helleborines I have ever seen (I know size isn’t everything). It was an amazing few hours, next year I shall do the full tour.

Jim fell

04 July 2013

Hi John,

Just a few words of thanks for organising the orchid day trip. Given that it has been the most extraordinarily topsey-turvey year for plants it was quite remarkable to see so many species in a single day out. Particularly impressed with the birds nest orchid, perhaps not the most glamorous orchid but a very fickle plant that frequently fails to show up at known locations. Having spent a season trying to locate a specimen in west Kent and failing dismally it was quite staggering to be taken into a wood and finding excellent specimens whichever way you turned. The lady orchids were excellent and remarkable to see them in such huge numbers. It was my first visit to that site but will definitely be on my itinerary next year whilst Park Gate is always a joy regardless of when you visit. It might have been a very long day but for me it was over all too soon.
Best regards

Chris 07 July 2013

Dear John,

We now have a new computer so are once more in communication.

It has taken us a long time to come back to you, but we have been on our annual visit to the Swiss Alps to make sure that the Edelweiss still blooms. It does.

We greatly enjoyed our visit to Kent in June. We were most impressed by the way you looked after us, and your patience with three octogenarians who don’t find hopping over stiles as easy as it once was.

It was very exciting for us to see so many orchids in one very full day, and especially to be introduced to six which we have never seen before (we cannot, alas, in all honesty, count those which were merely in bud).

Thank you, too, for making the arrangements for us to stay at the Observatory, where we were very comfortable.

We would greatly encourage others who might be thinking of joining you to do so. Our day was never to be forgotten.

Yours sincerely,

Peter & Patricia Moore 12.07.13

Hi John,
"I went on an Orchid Safari with the Sandwich Bay Bird Tours at the beginning of June, which is the height of the orchid season in east Kent. John's knowledge ensured that we saw many different species, and during the tour he was able to give us all great additional information about the orchids and other plants we saw during the day.

Highlight is always going to see the Monkey Orchids, another superb year for them in Kent, but special mention should be made of the display of Lady Orchids, something I could have stayed and looked at all day. John's knowledge also allowed us to see the hard to find Fly Orchid in two locations, as well as two Greater Butterfly locations. All in all we saw: Early Spider, Man, Fly, Lady, Birdsnest, White Heleborine (but these were not out due to the late spring), Monkey, Lady and Lizard (also not out). A wonderful day, and one I would heartily recommend to anyone."

Ian 15 July 2013


April 13th  Green-winged Orchid already in flower, several weeks earlier than last year.
Marsh and Leopard Marsh orchid rosettes out already. It’s going to be a crazy year.
April 14th  early Spider. Already several hundred in flower with some large specimens at least 12”
High. Clouded Yellow Butterfly also seen today.

Hi John!
Just to say we thoroughly enjoyed our orchid day out with you.  Got some great photos and enjoyed good company throughout.  Thanks once again.  Keep in touch.
Wendy May 2014

Hi John,
I am writing to  thank you for a really brilliant day which greatly exceeded my expectations. Twenty species of orchids with 18 in flower was amazing and that's not counting the Leopard which though not a species was just as enjoyable to see . I still can't really believe we saw them all - and all my targets too. My personal favourite was the spectacular profusion  of hundreds of Lady Orchids  growing together with almost as many Greater Butterfly Orchids but it was so hard to choose between the Lady,  Monkey, Late Spider , Lizard and Man Orchids.  It was good too to be shown the Early Spider so late in the season even though elsewhere this had totally gone over. Enjoyed your hospitality  too and I will strongly recommend you to anyone wanting to spend a day enjoying orchids in Kent. 
With very best wishes
Roger June 2014

Hi John
Thank you again for an excellent day on Friday. Seeing 20 species in one day far exceeded our expectations. You certainly worked hard to get us such an impressive list all with fantastic photo opportunities. Your relaxed and informative manner added to the enjoyment - we'll recommend you to all the Cheshire orchid fans!
All the best
David June 2014


No foreign trips in the spring this year so Orchid Tours will run from the last week in May until probably mid-June for the bulk of the species. Early Spider, green-winged are looking good and others such as Lady are already looking great. Fly Orchis is out as are Birds Nest etc. Book now, the season will soon be over.

June 7 2015

Orchids are out now for us all to enjoy. Tours are running now and up to at least Mon 15th June and possibly later depending on the condition of the plants at that stage.

Alison wrote on 18 June:

19 species of orchid in one day! I can't imagine anything more extraordinary or beautiful. John orchestrated it all perfectly, starting with bird's nest orchids and white helleborine in a quiet beech wood, then moving on to a nature reserve full of monkey orchids, fragrant orchids and a couple of fly orchids, then a whole wood full of magnificent lady orchids, mixed with common spotted and fragrant orchids. Then back to the coast to a hillside where there are bee orchids, man orchids and late spider orchids. Saved till last, were the splendid lizard orchids , growing in the most unlikely places, including roadside verges! We finished with a look at Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory and had a happy half hour watching lapwings, geese, ducks, a little egret, and listening to a reed warbler. John was happy to give us as much time as we wanted to admire and photograph, and he provided a hamper of goodies in the boot to keep us going. It couldn't have been a better day.


I have plans for another Orchid/Mammal and Bird tour for about one week at the beginning of June 2016. Details to follow shortly. Small numbers only so if interested get in quick. Highlights will be thousands of Lady's Slipper, military Orchids etc and hopefully Brown Bears and Flying Squirrels and much more. See trip reports from 2013.

Dear John,
I am writing to thank you for your expert knowledge and the insight you provided me on my tour last week. One day of bird watching and the other, you took me to the many sites known to you where wild orchids grow. I would like to say to anyone, novice or otherwise how much I would recommend they take advantage of your expertise, particularly the orchid day as I found this absolutely spectacular.
Thanks again
John West.
May 29 2016 update.

Birds Nest mostly still in bud but some open, same with White Helleborine, Greater Butterfly, Common Spotted. Fully still flowering are some Early Purple but Green-winged over. Monkey good but not a great year for them, lots of small Fly, Lady are looking great, Twayblade good, Man are looking absolutely great as are Late Spider. Early  Spider mostly gone. Lizard still in bud but a few of the bottom florets showing. May be another ten days.

Ann and Pete Ashburn wrote

Just to say my husband and I had a delightful day with John looking at orchids in Kent.We saw 12 different ones and it was a worthwhile experience.

May 2016

May 2018 ...After a very cold spring it looked as if we were going to have a late and perhaps poor showing.However the early signs are that the orchids are catching up and already by May 5th, Green-winged, Early Spider, Lady, Fly and Early Purple are in flower. Tours for the last week of May and first week in June are now almost full but there are still one or two dates available. I shall look forward to meeting all my guests soon.

Hi John,

Thanks again for organising/hosting the orchid trip for our group earlier this week. From my perspective it was ideal in providing us with access to a very wide range of species during the day, far more than we could ever have hoped to find if we had been left to our own devices. I would certainly recommend your assistance to any other groups of orchid hunters I come into contact with going forward.

I enjoyed the relative informality you adopted for the day, and the pace was just about right throughout. Staying at the Observatory was also an enjoyable experience for me, reminding me more of long past student days far more than you’d get in your average Travelodge.

So for me a very successful and memorable day which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I wish you every success in your upcoming and future events far and wide!!

Best wishes, Pete Brain 

Orchid tours in 2019 are restriced to the last 10 days in May due to foreign tour commitments. Dates can already be booked.