By brittalippiatt, May 5 2018 09:34AM
Bluebells, for me, are the epitome of woodland magic. The carpets of purply-blue, looking almost as if they hover above the woodland floor, are just out of this world, too beautiful to be true. I do love, and I mean love, woodlands all through the year, but the bluebells are the icing on the cake.
I also have a very personal connection with bluebells. Two of my children were born in mid-April, so the arrival of bluebells is mixed in with the joyous celebrations of birthdays. One of the first outings with my older daughter was to see the bluebells at Standish Wood. Three years later, when my youngest took her time to make an appearance and we decided to go for a walk to hopefully move things along and to lift us up, there was only one place to go – back to the bluebells at Standish Wood; she was born a few hours later.
So, here is a list of some of my favourite Gloucestershire woodlands – they are worth a visit throughout the year but don’t leave it too long if you want to see them under their cloaks of purple.
1. Standish Wood, National Trust
You can park at Shortwood car park (charges apply) just above Whiteshill (Stroud) and head into the woods from there:
Or approach things from the other side of the estate, parking at Ash Lane car park in Randwick:
The estate offers some outstanding views over the Severn Estuary as well as the Stroud Valleys, some iron age remains and wonderful limestone grasslands.
2. Siccaridge Wood, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust
This wonderful woodland lets you feel a hundred miles away from it all, yet it is easily accessible from Stroud and Cirencester. Parking is very limited but there is a sign by the pub (The Daneway Inn) to say you can park there if you buy a drink. There is a stream which the kids love to go in, so come prepared with some spare clothes.
3. Buckholt Wood, managed by Natural England
Buckholt Wood is close to my heart as I helped to manage it for a year when I worked as a warden for Natural England. It has lovely open rides and glades, perfect for butterflies and other insects. There is a car park just before reaching Cranham coming down from the A46.
4. Coopers Hill, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust
Buckholt Wood’s neighbour, Coopers Hill, is mostly famous for cheese rolling but it is also a wonderful place for an afternoon stroll. There is a waymarked family trail that takes you past the cheese rolling hill which, if you haven’t seen it yet, is jaw dropping, but my personal favourite is the lovely wildflower meadow about half way through the walk.
5. Nagshead, RSPB
Again, a woodland with a personal connection for me as I spent some time there during my university studies. As you can expect from an RSPB reserve, there is an abundant bird life and some hides to let you watch our feathered friends from behind a screen. There is a lovely short walk, perfect for little legs, and a pond near the car park which makes an ideal picnic spot.
Bluebells are still common in the UK but they are also under threat. The main worry is habitat destruction as we are losing our ancient woodlands to developments for housing, roads and other infrastructure. However, the is another threat in form of an invasive foreigner: the Spanish bluebell Hyacinthoides hispanica. It was introduced by the Victorians and soon started to escape their gardens to cross-breed with our native bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta, creating a new species, Hyacinthoides x massartiana. For more information about our native bluebell as well as the difference between the native and Spanish visit http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/trees-woods-and-wildlife/plants-and-fungi/woodland-wildflowers/bluebell/
If you would like to support the vital work conservation charities like the National Trust, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and the RSPB do, please consider becoming a member. GWT and the RSPB have fab children’s and family memberships which include regular wildlife magazines and activity ideas. Also check their websites for local events and volunteering opportunities.
I am always keen to explore new places, so please do let me know about your favourite bluebell woods (if you are willing to share them, that is).