Are These the UK's Most Beautiful Bluebell Woods?
The enchanting allure of bluebell woods is an iconic seasonal highlight that heralds the transition between the early spring bulbs and that promise of summer. Even confirmed indoorsy people can conjurer up an image of azure bluebell seas, thanks to the many high street pictures that adorn our living room walls.
Bluebell bulbs (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) are fairly common in the UK, often found in small patches in parks, woodlands and our gardens. In reality though, it is pretty hard to find areas with the lakes of bluebell flowers that we see in magazines. Undeterred, Team Verve set off optimistically most May Bank Holiday weekends in search of the perfect spot.
Here are a few of our favourites so far, including our current vote for the UK's Most Beautiful Bluebell Wood....
The National Trust's Lanhydrock Estate and Gardens are worth a visit at any time of year, but hardly anyone venture's beyond the first few yards of the Great Wood's incredible English bluebell areas. That's a pity since they get better and better the further you explore. The 1000 acres of woodland are close to the house and make a stunning spot for a romantic or family picnic. Lanyhydrock has a beautiful collection of magnolias too that you won't want to miss.
Dogs allowed on leads in the woodland and parkland and in the Stable cafe, but not in the gardens.
Small, but perfectly-formed, the indigo blanket amongst the beech trees within the small woodland in Coton Manor Gardens is absolutely stunning. Since the wider gardens are also gorgeous, this place is also very popular so we suggest heading to the bluebells as the gardens open or as they empty near closing time. Unlike in some of the wilder bluebell woodlands, this 5 acre wood is carefully managed to keep a clear understory so that the view of bright green new beech foliage and bluebell carpet is uninterrupted- good news for photographers (although no tripods allowed).
Have cake or lunch in the Stableyard cafe, treat yourself to a purchase from the Plant Shop and check out the excellent range of courses and talks run in the highly-regarded Garden School.
Luckily for us, Victorian Art Critic and Social Revolutionary, John Ruskin created his garden on a hillside overlooking the Lake District's Coniston Water and the fells beyond. He was a detailed observer of natural beauty, loving the skies at early morning and sunset and the contrasts of green leaves against sunny blue skies. It's a sentiment we wholeheartedly approve of and a nice one to carry with you as you stroll through the bluebells. The paths are fairly steep and so contact Brantwood for accesibilty information in advance.
Don't forget to drop into the nearby Ruskin Museum, definitely worth a trip with pretty neat exhibits also on Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazon's adventures set nearby and Donald Campbell's World Water Speed Records on Coniston Water in the 1950's. The Swallows and Amazon's Tearoom on the lakeside is worth a visit too.
Dogs allowed on leads.
Kiftsgate Court has a stunning, South-facing bank of bluebells adjoining the driveway that make a wonderful place to enjoy the scent on a sunny day. At the entrance to the Bluebell walk is a stunning wildflower and bulb area in the small lawn. From the Bluebell path, head down towards the Lower Garden and the mesmerising semi-circular pool- a masterpiece of simplicity in garden design that I just have to stare into every time I visit. Of course the best thing about enjoying the bluebells at Kifstsgate is that you can drink in their magic and then enjoy the rest of these marvellous gardens before popping over to nearby Hidcote Manor. Our definition of a pretty good day out! Pickle doesn't agree though- no dogs allowed in either garden and the car parks are in sun. However, there is plenty of lovely countryside around, so we opt for cool days.
Our jewel in the crown and a secret we have been loathe to share... At Team Verve, we think that Oldmoor Wood has to be one of Britain's finest expanses of dense, spectacular blueness. Don't be put off by the patchier areas of bluebells near the start of the wood, just keep going and going and it will get better and better. We are so lucky to have this special place so close to our home. Even more so since, on weekdays, you are likely to have the whole wood to yourself and, even on weekends, we only ever see a handful of people. At only 4 miles from M1, J26, it is well worth a journey, we promise!
From the car park at Strelley Hall, cross the road and walk up the lane over the motorway bridge. You will see the Woodland Trust Oldmoor Wood sign on the left hand side after around 10 minutes walk. Be warned though, it is often VERY muddy, so you will need your wellies. Luckily we have a great Pinterest Board to help you keep your feet clean in style.
The lovely Mulberry Tree Cafe at Strelley Hall old stables is a highly-recommended stop, with sheltered, dog-friendly tables outside and a lovely small museum. Definitely try one of the yummy home made quiches. Next door in the old blacksmiths room, fused glass artist David Humphreys showcases some of the best fine art and handmade gifts from a wide range of local designer-makers in Created By Hand. David also hosts a very wide selection of arts an craft workshops for you to peruse. The adjacent Mulberry Tree Garden Shop has a few seasonal bedding plants for those who can't resist going home without a living souvenir. We recommend Janine Moore's post at the fabulous Baldhiker.com blog for more about Strelley village and Hall.
Great place for dogs, although be mindful of cars and horses en route to the wood.
Leave us a comment with the best bluebell wood near you (and please share the post on social!)
Team Verve aim to be covering the best!