The site is one of the last remaining strongholds of the Jersey or Loose-flowered Orchid (Orchis laxiflora).
Often known simply as ‘the Orchid Field’, this unique site actually consists of two distinct but adjoining wet meadows, Le Noir Pré (10 vergees 36 perches), and the smaller Le Clos du Seigneur (2 vergees 32 perches). The site is one of the last remaining strongholds of the Jersey or Loose-flowered Orchid (Orchis laxiflora), which also occurs in Guernsey, but is absent from the rest of the British Isles. The meadows also contain a wide variety of other plant species, many of which have become increasingly uncommon in Jersey.
There are 32,000 orchids growing in Le Noir Pré. These include four species, those on this page plus the Pyramidal Orchid that flowers in June. Orchids have a symbiotic relationship with microscopic soil fungi, the fungi provide the orchids with nutrients and in return they gain sugars. Different orchid species use different fungal species which are sensitive to soil disturbance. Through careful management, Le Noir Pré has become an important reserve for orchids.
The site was purchased by the National Trust for Jersey from Mrs E. L. Le Maistre in 1972. At this time, many similar meadows were being drained and ploughed up for potato growing, and it was largely at the suggestion of the distinguished local botanist Frances Le Sueur that the Trust purchased the site.
The earlier history of the meadows needs to more fully researched, but it is likely that they have always been managed for hay cutting, followed by grazing, perhaps for centuries. The name ‘Le Noir Pré’ means ‘the black meadow’ in English, perhaps a reference to the dark, peaty soil hereabouts; ‘Le Clos du Seigneur’ means ‘the close (a small enclosed field) belonging to the Seigneur’. Part of the main field was used as a rubbish tip for many years after the German Occupation (1940-45).
Flora and Fauna
In addition to the Jersey Orchid (Orchis laxiflora), three other species, the Southern Marsh (Dactylorhiza praetermissa), Common Spotted and Heath Spotted Orchids (Dactylorhiza maculata), occur at the site. During May and June, the two meadows are a riot of colour, with the stunning deep purple of the Jersey Orchids contrasting with the various shades of pink, through to white, of the remaining species. Other notable wildflowers include the Ragged Robin, Yellow Bartsia, Parsley Water-dropwort, Common Knapweed, Square-stalked St. John’s-wort and Tufted Vetch.
A wide range of insects can also be seen in the meadows, especially butterflies of various species, including the Orange Tip, whose caterpillars feed on Cuckooflower, and dragonflies, including the spectacular Emperor Dragonfly. Grasshoppers and crickets are also abundant, and several bumblebee species forage on the nectar-rich flowers. Small mammals such as voles, mice and shrews attract predatory birds, including the Kestrel and the Barn Owl, and the rare Marsh Harrier can sometimes be observed hunting over the site.
As a wet meadow, Le Noir Pré requires consistent management year in and year out to maintain its rich plant species diversity. Each Autumn a small herd of Jersey cows graze on the field, reducing plant height and allowing more plants to re-grow in the spring. After the plants have flowered and when the seed has dispersed, the field is cut for hay, in August.
This management system prevents dominant species, such as grasses, from taking over and improves light conditions for all plants. Cutting after seed dispersal helps increase the number of flowers on an annual basis.
Orchid counts are conducted every two years and since 1995 numbers have increased from 1,500 to 32,000 individuals and now occupy a wider area. As well as the orchids, there are 80 other flowering plants in the meadow and it also supports a wide diversity of insects, reptiles, mammals and birds.
Visitor Access and Facilities
Le Noir Pré is at its best in May-June, the orchid flowering season. Guided tours are available on a special open day at this time, after which the site remains open to the public for several further weeks. Visitors must keep to the mown paths around the site and dogs are to be kept on leads.
The entrance to Le Noir Pré is located on Le Chemin de L’Ouziere, a minor road off Le Grand Route de Mielle (Five Mile Road). Limited roadside parking is available, and Bus 12A from St. Helier also stops nearby. See Google Maps.
Le Noir Pré is owned and managed by the National Trust for Jersey. Visit their website to find out more about the sites they protect and restore.
Help protect the Orchids
Keep to the marked trail, even when taking photographs
Refrain from picking the flowers, let them seed
Please keep dogs on leads
Please shut the gate when entering or leaving the field
Please do not litter
Become a member or make a donation (box on the gate)