As the Bluebell’s begin to flower in the UK, This article from the Guardian..
Wander down to a wood in April or early May and it’s likely that you’ll be confronted by a wonderful sight. A carpet of blue will stretch out into the distance with a scene full of delicate, fragile flowers. A bluebell wood in full flower is a true assault on your senses.
For generations bluebell woods have captured the public’s imagination and they have become the perfect symbol of the beauty and seasonality of our world. They are emblematic of new life and remain a real crowd pleaser: a time for celebration and joy.
Bluebells are usually at their best during mid morning, making it a great time to visit when you get the softer dappled light on a sunny day and their scent wafting through the air. Look also for the changes in colour from the rich dark blue when they are at their youngest and freshest, to the softer almost pale blue as they begin to fade away as the summer months draw nearer.
This is nature at its best and a quintessential sight in the spring months. It’s a sign that the days are getting longer and warmer.
As our climate has gradually become milder the first bluebells began to get earlier every year. In west Cornwall they could even be spotted in March thanks to frost-free winters and the milder nature of the west country. It would be late April or even early May before the rest of us could marvel at these lovely bluebells as they force their way through the soil stretching tall and proud towards the warm spring air.
The bluebell starts growing in the previous autumn, its sole purpose to flower before other woodland plants. This means that it’s free from competition, attracting the early spring pollinators. But cold weather can slow its clock down. Not only will the bluebell then have to compete with other ground flora but also shade from above in the form of trees coming into to leaf, preventing sunlight reaching the forest floor.
To help us keep up to speed with the bluebell season, the National Trust has set up Bluebell Watch as a way to provide updates on when the bluebells are at their best. Wardens and gardeners are sending in their sightings of the first bluebells as they appear and will be keeping a close eye on the peak time for bluebells; they’re normally at their best for one week.
One ideal site is Ashridge. Only 27 miles from the centre of London, these stunning beech woodlands in the heart of the Chilterns are the quintessential place to see bluebells.
The blue haze of bluebells has also begun to appear at National Trust woods from the gardens at Agatha Christie’s former holiday home on the banks of river Dart in Devon to the deep wooded valleys of the beautiful Hardcastle Crags in Yorkshire.
Woods in the UK really do matter globally for bluebells. Half of the world’s population of English bluebells can be found on these shores but their future remains uncertain.
Climate is important for bluebells but they are also struggling to cope with another threat so common for many different species of British wildlife – invasive species.
Spanish bluebells, a more cultivated form of bluebell, are normally found in our towns and cities in gardens and parks. Yet this welcome splash of colour in urban areas is putting the future of native bluebells at real risk. A blend of the English and Spanish bluebells has created a virulent hybrid that is difficult to distinguish from our own true bluebell.
In the meantime, use the arrival of this year’s fleeting bluebells as the perfect excuse to spend time in a nearby wood – and share the resulting photographs with the rest of the world.