Step into a beautiful blue spring in National Trust bluebell woods
Now that spring is just around the corner, the National Trust has revealed the best places to spot dramatic carpets of bluebells in Kent.
The sight and scent of bluebells covering a woodland floor on a warm spring day is one of the most magical experiences nature has to offer.
With over half the global population of bluebells flowering on UK shores, Britain’s beautiful blue spring is a quintessential part of our native landscape. The National Trust is one of the most important organisations in the UK for bluebells – a quarter of the Trust’s woodland is ancient or semi-natural; the ideal habitats for bluebells to flourish.
Matthew Oates, a naturalist for the National Trust, comments: “Bluebells start to grow in January with a sole purpose to flower before other woodland plants. However, timing of flowering depends on elevation, latitude, aspect, soils, geology and local climate conditions – they depend on warm ground conditions to help them grow. The true beauty of our bluebells – the intense blue colour, the delicate scent, the view – makes them an essential and special element to our springtime experience”.
The native bluebell species can be identified by its delicate scent, intense blue colour and flowers that droop down like a bell along one side of the stem. Bluebells usually burst into flower between April and May, but as they depend on warm ground temperatures to help them grow, can often appear earlier in the year.
The top National Trust places to enjoy a day out surrounded by nodding bluebells are:
The most popular attraction at Emmetts Garden, English bluebells cover an acre of the woodland dell at the bottom of the south garden, which overlooks the Bough Beech Reservoir and the Weald of Kent.
Simon Walker, head gardener at Emmetts Garden comments: “We’re so lucky to have great swathes of these beautiful bell-shaped, delicately scented flowers here. The bluebell bank is a natural untamed area of woodland which offers the wonderful carpet of blue that everyone wants to see in spring. The best photo opportunity is from the bottom of the woodland dell looking up the bank towards the bluebells”.
Simon adds: “The layout of the woodland at Emmetts Garden means that you can often find your own little corner to enjoy the bluebells. We’d suggest arriving early in the day to get the bluebells to yourself or visit in the late afternoon when the sunshine cuts through the tree canopy throwing atmospheric light across the blue hues”.
Well known for its spectacular displays of spring colour, Emmetts Garden is also home to a vivid show of over 3,000 wild red, pink and black tulips, bright yellow daffodils, and colourful rhododendrons all flowering beneath 26 cherry trees.
Swathes of bluebells can be found in Scathes Wood, running alongside the driveway. The ancient woodland is home to around 15 acres carpeted in the distinctive blue colour of spring.
Richard Burton, head gardener at Ightham Mote, comments: “The bluebells truly bring the woodland to life in spring. It’s a well-known location locally for the best bluebell walk due to the sheer scale of the bluebell coverage and its amazing scent”.
Ightham Mote is running a passenger buggy service to the entrance of Scathes Wood this spring, subject to volunteer drivers being available. Pick up an estate walks leaflet for suggested routes.
Sunday 10 April, 10.30am-12.30pm
Join a free spring walk around the estate of Ightham Mote, spotting bluebells as you go. The walk sets off from the visitor reception
Normal admission charges apply, booking essential on 01732 810378, extension 100
Sissinghurst Castle Garden
Venture into Sissinghurst Castle’s woodland and be rewarded with around 126million individual bluebell flowers. Spot them to the far left and right of the property’s woods which are also bursting with other wild flowers from wooden anemones, red campion Greater stitchwort and cookoo flower to common violet, white and red dead-nettle and yellow archangel, all trying to establish themselves before the tree canopy closes.
Sissinghurst Castle’s senior ranger Peter Dear comments: “We’re starting to see an increase of bluebells in an area of woodland used as swine pasture over 200 years ago. This is exciting for us as once bluebells disappear it can take a long time for them to return. One of the best things about our bluebells is the smell – there are around 26 different smells that make up the aroma of a bluebell, including scents of lychee and lemon”.
Before the bluebells emerge, the woodland lays down a dapple carpet of wooden anemones. These are low lying white or pinkish petal-like sepals, which close overnight to protect them from the frost and open again in the gentle spring sunlight. In the garden, made world famous by its creators Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, the wall flowers, tulips and narcissus are ablaze in the cottage garden and along lime walk.
Bluebell and wildflower walks
Saturday 30 April and Monday 2 May, 2pm
Enjoy the high scent and colour of the season with a guided walk of the woodland, led by our ranger. Finish off the walk with a cream tea in the restaurant
Tickets £12.50 per person including cream tea, booking essential via 0844 249 1895