Bluebells and beech trees

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May 9th, 2013…

Today has been an odd day, both for content and weather. Feverishly working early this morning, walking the dog, down to my son’s via the supermarket, then hauled about in a hospital X-ray department for a while, all before lunch.   The day had begun sunny and warm, changed quickly to ominous grey, and seems to have settled for a mixture of both with optional high winds thrown in for good measure. A confused snail grazing on the bird feeder seemed to set the tone.

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So, as the proposed trip with my son to see the bluebells had been postponed, I decided that as the hospital was halfway there I should just wander through the intervening countryside and call in to see how they were doing. They are, of course, flowering late this year, which is a great shame as I would have loved to share them with my guests.

The main wood is still just carpeted with promise. Odd small patches here and there are showing that particular unique blue.  But there is another wood, close by. Not so old, the trees mere saplings by comparison, the canopy lighter, and perhaps, just perhaps, I would be lucky. And I was.

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These are not the bluebells one buys to plant in the garden, hyacinthoides-non-scripta is the true English bluebell, the flowers follow one side of the slender, curving stalk where the common garden version, the Spanish bluebell, is sturdier, the flowers arranged around the stalk which stands upright and resists the urging of gravity to bend. Now, of course, like so many things, these glorious bluebell woods are rarer, threatened by a changing environment and the depredations of man. Yet it is thought that around half the bluebells in the world bloom in English woodlands.

And there can be few things more spectacularly beautiful than an English bluebell wood in spring, starred with tiny white anemones. It is the most delicate assault on the senses, the contrast of the unending blue haze beneath the fresh green of the beech trees, the sound of the wind in the young branches and the soft crunch of twigs and coppered leaves beneath the feet, and that unmistakable, heady perfume that fills the air. Memories of other years, childhood years flood back, when bluebells could be taken home for great granny to see, smell and remember.

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Wandering down the narrow pathways under a canopy of vibrant green is a magical experience at any age. The camera is such a two dimensional view of such delicious beauty and cannot capture it. Granted, the wood was not in full flower, another day or two and this small patch of glory will be at its best. But even so….

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