Spring has sprung in time for Easter! All the glorious sunshine this week has made the gardens and countryside leap into action – our fruit trees are in full bloom, there are huge bumble bees careering past my nose like party whizzers every time I step outside and even the oak trees are flinging on their spring clothes at last.
In the woods too things are springing into life too and the forest floors are being transformed from dull browns to a glorious haze of rippling blue. One of Britain’s natural seaonal wonders is well and truly underway – it is bluebell season.
Oxfordshire and the Chilterns is a particularly good part of the country to find bluebell walks – all those beech trees make for an open canopy that lets the wintery sunshine peep through and bring life to the bluebell plants below. Over the years I have been in the area I have found some lovely bluebell wood walks and each year try to find a new walk.
This year we headed to Nuffield Place between Wallingford and Nettlebed. Nuffield Place is a National Trust property – one of their smaller ones, but has a good few bluebells in their wooded area of the garden. What caught my eye though was a glimpse of tantalising blue through the boundary fence in the woods beyond and I had to explore. What I found was a beautiful woodland walk through a sea of bluebells that were just beginning to come into their full glory. This bluebell walk is short too which makes it great for walking with toddlers – you can find the full Nuffield Place Bluebell Walk route here.
Whilst on the theme of National Trust properties, both Greys Court and Basildon Park have lovely bluebell walks at this time of year – Basildon Park in their parkland and Greys Court in the estate woods adjoining the property (you can access the walk without going in to the property itself). The National Trust is running kids Easter egg trails over the bank holiday too so an added incentive to visit this Easter weekend.
Binfield Heath near Henley-on-Thames and Reading is another good location for bluebell walks with three different spots to enjoy them – Bones Wood, High Wood and Shiplake Copse. If you are feeling energetic you could combine all three or combine with a Thameside walk from Sonning to Shiplake!
The most show-stopping bluebell walk of the three is definitely High Wood between Binfield Heath and Harpsden Bottom. This is the place where we met a lady in her elder years sitting on a log contemplating the beauty of the woods. She told us she walked there across the fields every day in bluebell season and we understood exactly why. High Wood is only small but the peace and beauty found there during bluebell season is of the kind that makes your soul sing – the kind that makes kids believe that fairies might actually be real.
The woods around Nettlebed are another good place for bluebell walks – there is a pleasant circular pushchair friendly route at Highmoor and Ipsden Woods near close-by Stoke Row are also particularly inviting at this time of year. Cowleaze Wood just off the M40 and the Warburg Nature Reserve near Maidensgrove are also good for South Oxfordshire bluebell walks.
Of course, there are fantastic bluebell woods all across the UK – one of my favourites is Silk Wood at Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire. Pondhead Inclosure near Lyndhurst in the New Forest is another top spot as are Prior Woods, Tyntesfield and Leigh Woods near Bristol. For those in London, the Ashridge Estate near Berkhamstead is one of the best places to see bluebells in the country – the bluebell walks there are pushchair friendly and Ashrdge is easily accessible from the capital.
I’m still only just beginning to discover the best places for bluebells so please tell me about the best spots near you with a comment below and hopefully I can get round to visiting them in future years. The Woodland Trust also have a handy bluebell wood search tool so if you are still searching for bluebell walks near you then look no further.
Enjoy your bluebell walks this Easter. Remind the kids not to pick them or put them in their mouth – aside from it spoiling the beauty for future years and other visitors, bluebells don’t last when picked anyway and they are actually a little bit poisonous. Whether rain or shine though, don’t miss the few weeks of bluebell season – grey skies intensify the blue hue of the flowers and there is nothing so magical as dappled sunlight suddenly transforming the forest floor into a magical glade of dancing spring blue.