The magic of a bluebell wood
Have you ever walked through a bluebell wood in full flower? If you have, you will doubtless remember it as one of the most sublime landscapes you have ever known. This year the bluebells are exceptional: they seem to have spread and flowered everywhere, in unexpected places, under bushes, on lawns, along the verges of the main road. And in the woods, their preferred habitat, they are just extraordinary.
There is an oak wood a few miles from us which is famous for its bluebells. People make journeys especially to visit it at this time of year. For a week or two, the ground beneath the young oak leaves turns to an ethereal violet blue, shimmering on the edge of sight: it is a colour which seems almost beyond the visible spectrum.
It is pretty much beyond words, too. I took my younger son to this wood yesterday after school.
‘ You have to see this,’ I told him. ‘I can’t describe it, I have to show it to you.’
We parked at the edge of the wood and clambered over the low wall onto a path. At first my boy was in high spirits, shouting and capering, balancing on logs and recounting anecdotes from his school day. A few minutes into the wood, however, and he began to fall quiet: the magic of the place was stealing over him. The air was full of birdsong and the sweet, cool scent of millions of bluebells.Everywhere we looked, a violet haze pooled across the forest floor.
‘Oh my gosh, oh my gosh,’ breathed my son as he looked about him. We walked on for a minute or two in silence. When he turned to me, his face was full of wonder.
‘OK, now I see why you said I had to see this!’
We stayed half an hour or more. As we reluctantly headed homewards, we met the occasional other walker, whose faces reflected our own response to this woodland. One couple strode past smiling, regular visitors who knew all the best paths. A man in a suit stood in open-mouthed wonder for a few moments before returning to his car. An elderly pair in indifferent health stopped to ask directions, their expressions already filling with light and peace.
Sadly I can no more adequately describe the experience of being in this wood to you than I could to my son. You just have to imagine the scent, the birdsong, the occasional breeze shaking raindrops from the trees, and that ethereal, infinite blue.
You might enjoy In the enchanted wood or An escape into the bluebell woods. An artist who had a profound feel for the way that violet blue shimmers on the edge of the visible spectrum was Winifred Nicholson: you can find a little about her here in The lure of the liminal.