Since moving to London I’ve been desperate to see the British bluebells that captured the hearts and quills of the Brontë sisters but, for one reason or another, I never quite managed it. That is, until last weekend.
After a quick check of the bluebell status on Twitter and with a full camera battery I headed South along the motorway to the National Trust’s Hatchlands Park Estate.
With 400 acres of sprawling park- and woodland I was looking forward to filling my lungs with fresh air and, hopefully, finding some bluebells. I didn’t have to wander too far before I came across the first of several bluebell meadows. They took my breath away. Like little watercolour droplets suspended just above the woodland floor I felt as though I were strolling through a Monet.
I didn’t really notice their scent until the sun had dipped later in the afternoon and I was making my way back to the car park. There was no one around and it seemed as if the flowers had been waiting for the crowds to clear before releasing their scent into the early evening air. From memory I think it’s a subtle, sweet fragrance – so subtle I missed it entirely earlier in the day.
This is the best time of year to find British bluebells – one of two types which grow wild here in the UK, (it’s the one in these pictures.) The other variety is the more robust, Spanish bluebell that you can find more readily, even in urban areas. A little like the grey squirrel, it’s overtaken our native species and its hardier design – think chunkier stems and shinier leaves – seems to have solidified its staying power.
If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in a native bluebell meadow, try to stick to pathways if you can. British bluebells are very delicate and once they’ve been trodden on they don’t tend to grow again, which is why we often find them springing up in little patches as opposed to the carpet of bluebells you see here. Because of the unusually dry April, (in the South East at least!) it seems that time is running out to see the bluebells at their best so if you’ve got some free time this week why not check out the National Trust’s guide to finding them in your area. And if you spot either the native or Spanish species be sure to record them in the Woodland Trust’s Big Bluebell Watch.
Until next time,