Bluebells, Garfit Farm

I make no excuse for posting another picture of bluebells, they’ll soon be dying away for another year. The first bracken fonds have overtaken the delicate flowers. In Newton Woods they are already past their best but here in Bilsdale in this wooded gill to the south of White Hill (commonly known as Hasty Bank) they’re still going strong.

Garfit map


Bluebell Meadows, Newton Woods

My annual sally into the bluebells in Newton Wood. Maybe still a little early but my patience has run out. An iconic shot, found by just following the paths created by other photographers.

The Bluebell is the sweetest flower
That waves in summer air:
Its blossoms have the mightiest power
To soothe my spirit’s care.

Emily Bronte 1840

Male Fern

A wet miserable day with low cloud hiding any views of the hills so my attention had to be closer to my feet. In Newton Woods the bluebells have gone off the boil. Their vivid blues have paled and the bracken fronds overtaken them. But less prevalent than bracken are clumps of ferns.

Now I’m going to stick my head out and say these are Male Ferns or to give it its Latin name Dryopteris filix-mas. Its the most common British fern so my chances of being right must be good. The alternative could be the Lady Fern, a similar looking but completely different species. I guess you need to be an expert to tell the difference.

But I’ll go with the Male Fern because it has some interesting folklore associated with it. It was believed that the carrying of its spores makes you invisible. If you want to try this out for yourself you’ll have to wait until late July when the spores are ripe.

Should you not want to wait that long to experiment with folk lore you could try making a charm to ward off witches and evil spirits by digging up the roots on St. John’s Eve, carving into the shape of a hand and then baking it. St. John’s Eve? Well St. John’s Day is 24 June so St. John’s Eve is 23rd, which happens to be Referendum Day. Desperate measures perhaps!

White Bluebells, Newton Woods

Bluebells again. No excuse. Have to make good use of the short flowering season. These are white bluebells. Just a patch of a few sprigs that hasn’t gotten any bigger in the fifteen years or so that I’ve known of them. Maybe they’re infertile.

Bluebells, Cliff Ridge Wood

Ever since seeing the first blue buds appear three or four weeks ago I have been waiting patiently for the purple haze. I feel sure the bluebells in Newton and Cliff Riidge Woods are late this year. Maybe the recent cold spell has set them back a bit. At least when it does come it will be free, not like at Ashridge, another of National Trust’s many properties where you now have to pay to view the spectacular blue carpets.

The reason the National Trust have given for introducing the charge is to pay for extra rangers because the “bluebells are being trampled and the ground is being compacted”. They are a pretty sight but we must remember that great swathes of bluebells are not really a natural sight. Bluebells have evolved to withstand trampling and grazing by large herbivores such aurochs, elk and red deer. The large carpets that are common today are the result of removal of these animals so it could be argued that a bluebell wood is what the scientists call a plagioclimax habitat. That is an ecosystem in which the influence of the humans prevents it from developing further. But then there are not many habitats which are not influenced by man.

It is a common belief amongst gardeners that deer do not eat Bluebells but research by the Forestry Commission has shown that deer do in fact have an impact on woodland biodiversity with tree and understorey species both being vulnerable to browsing including bluebells. Muntjac deer, themselves an introduced species,  have a particular predilection for the little blue flowers.

Bluebells are a species of deciduous woodland, blooming early before the tree canopy shades out the wood floor. Two species are found in the British Isles. The Common Bluebell is native whereas the paler Spanish Bluebell is an introduced species. The two hybridise readily and produce fertile offspring leaving our native Common Bluebell at risk. For this reason it is protected a  under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 making it a criminal offence to remove any wild bulbs.

In folk medicine the bulbs of bluebells have been used as a diuretic or styptic to stop bleeding and as a remedy for leucorrhoea.

Bluebells, Newton Wood

I’ve been holding off this photo for three or four weeks now. Just waiting for for bluebells to be at their best. They just don’t seem to be in the same profusion this year. Must have been the cold spring we have had. Finally my patience has run out.

These will be the English variety which are a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The Spanish Bluebell, an introduced variety, hybridises with the English.

Newton Wood is a National Trust property. Link to location.