Our very precious bluebells

·2-min read
A carpet of bluebells Photo: Donna Zimmer
A carpet of bluebells Photo: Donna Zimmer

Our Wildthings correspondent Eric Brown recommends a trip to see quintessential British spring flowers with therapeutic powers much loved by poets and capable of creating a powerful optical illusion.

ONE of the most spectacular sights in nature is now showing in a wood near you.

A bluebell carpet in spring assaults the eyes with riotous colour, has the power to restore diminished spirits and brings joy even in the most depressing circumstances.

These characteristically British wild flowers can grow in such profusion that an observer may be fooled into believing a lake lies glistening between distant trees. A slight breeze causes the close-knit blue hordes to ripple and resemble gentle waves.

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Narrow leaves arise from the bulb of Hyancinthoides non-scripta before being followed by a green stem then bell-shaped blue flowers in spring.

Flowers hang their heads while a Spanish variety that escaped into our countryside are much more erect and point towards the sun.

News Shopper: A single bluebell Photo: Donna Zimmer
News Shopper: A single bluebell Photo: Donna Zimmer

A single bluebell Photo: Donna Zimmer

The name bluebell did not become common until popularised by British romantic poets in the early 19th century. John Clare, England’s foremost rural poet, and Gerard Manley Hopkins, are among those who committed their admiration for bluebells to paper.

Although they prefer woods and tolerate shaded areas, bluebells can also be located in hedgerows and occasionally in gardens of houses constructed where woodland once stood.

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Bluebell bonanzas can usually be seen in Lesnes Abbey Woods at Abbey Wood while Emmets Garden on National Trust land at Ide Hill near Sevenoaks, Kent, will be smothered annually. It is worth a look. But please do not be tempted to take bluebells home. Uprooting wild flowers without the landowners permission is illegal and can incur heavy fines.

Beaton’s Wood at Arlington, East Sussex pays tribute to the bluebell by opening up for a month for special “Bluebell Walks” raising money for local projects such as a school swimming pool and village hall. Railway enthusiasts gave a nod to the nodding flower by naming their nearby railway “The Bluebell Line” after saving it from extinction when axed by British Rail in 1958.

Bluebells always seem abundant because they grow in large colonies. But like many other species they may be threatened by climate change. Warmer temperatures could persuade the plants to bloom out of sync with ideal conditions, exposing them to risk.

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