It was such a pleasure to photograph and blog about the beautiful native bluebells of Epping Forest last year. Judging by the comments, the little bell-shaped flowers really do seem to capture the imagination of young and old….
So this year – camera in hand – I trod lightly through the Spring forest again, to try and capture their transient beauty once more. Entering the bluebell wood, I was reminded how time can fly when strolling quietly along the paths between the flowers.
When the sun shone brightly, the flowers would light up. Back-lit and hazy, their dreamy blue hues would become almost translucent…
But then, when the clouds passed overhead; the bluebells would instantly become a deeper shade of blue. As a breeze rippled through the woods, so the flowers would move, like swaying sapphires.
Beneath the shade of the trees, the little flowers were a blur of cobalt blues. I waited for the sunshine to reappear. Finally, as the sun broke through the clouds, shards of light pierced through the trees, throwing spotlights on the forest floor. The bluebell carpet suddenly became of patchwork of blue; dark hues interspersed with pale sunlit patches.
The tiny flowers grow so closely together that they do resemble a woodland carpet – and the UK is believed to have the finest ‘bluebell carpets’ in the world. They tend to appear in April / May; during which time they provide woodland visitors with a wonderful spectacle that lasts only a few weeks. They tend to come into bloom in the south, before gradually blooming towards the north.
Native bluebells can also be found in various shades of lilac and even white.
There are some fascinating facts and folklore surrounding bluebells. (The Woodland Trust website has a good section on this if you want to find out more.) In Elizabethan times, bluebell bulbs were crushed to provide the starch used on the fashionable ruff collars and sleeves. The sap from bluebells was used to bind pages into the spines of books. It is also believed to have been used in the Bronze Age to fletch (attach feathers to) arrows.
The delicate native bluebell in the UK is under threat from the vigorous Spanish bluebell.
Hope you enjoy them!