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Bluebell Woods in England

Updated on June 23, 2012

Have you Visited an English Bluebell Wood?

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English bluebell wood - Hagg  Wood near Burnley, Lancashire
English bluebell wood - Hagg Wood near Burnley, Lancashire | Source
Bluebells in Hagg Wood
Bluebells in Hagg Wood | Source

English Bluebell Woods

English bluebell woods have been quite rightly noted for centuries. In his poem 'Summer', John Clare (1793 1864) started with “Come we to the summer, to the summer we will come, for the woods are full of bluebells….” You would think, that living in England, it would be impossible to miss the sight of bluebells carpeting the floor of a wood, but I’m surprised by the number of people who haven’t yet found their own bluebell wood and by those who think they’ve found it, but been disappointed by the sight.

The problem with bluebells is that they are only at their absolute peak for a week and the timing of that week varies. The further north the woodland is, the later the bluebells bloom. However bluebells within woods only a couple of miles from each other can peak at different times because of the microclimate and soil. For example, bluebells in a sunny wood on a south facing slope will bloom earlier than those amongst a mostly shaded wood in a gorge.

If you arrive too early in the season there will be fewer bluebells out with less intense colour. There will also seem to be more leaf then flower – pretty, but not an astounding sight. Arrive too late and the colour will be deeper, almost purple, but a closer look will reveal that the flowers are beginning to shrivel.

Going to a bluebell wood in bright sunlight in the middle of spring might seem ideal, but under these conditions even the best bluebell show can look a bit bleached out. I recommend visiting a bluebell wood first thing in the morning or late afternoon on a bright day.

English Bluebells

English bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) are sometimes confused with harebells (Campanula rotundiflora), which are a flower of heathland with the most delicate of stems and several single bell shaped flowers coming of each stem, or with Spanish bluebells (Hyacintoides hispanica which have a slightly coarser head of many flowers and broader leaves and in some places have spread from gardens in to woodland. Spanish bluebells are not native to the UK but will crossbreed with English bluebells. A study by Plantlife indicates that the Spanish bluebell or Spanish/English hybrid is now present in 16% of British broad leaved woodlands.

English bluebells are mostly found in mature broad leaved woodland, but you will find them in hedgerows and sometimes in grassy banks. They like a period of freezing weather over winter to spur them into flowering in spring. According to The Natural History Museum (London) the UK has 50% of the world's population of Hyacinthoides non-scripta. They are carrying out an ongoing study into the spread of the Spanish bluebell in the UK and to determine whether bluebells are flowering earlier in the year as a result of climate change.

English Bluebells

Bluebells - note the curled back petal ends
Bluebells - note the curled back petal ends | Source

What is the Difference between English Bluebells, Spanish Bluebells and Harebells?

 
English Bluebell
Spanish Bluebell
Harebell
Also known as
native bluebell
non native bluebell
bluebell in Scotland
Latin name
Hyacinthoides non scripta
Hyancinthoides hipanica
Campanula rotundiflora
Flowering season
April-June
April-June
July-October
Habitat
mature broad leaved woodland
gardens and parks, but it has hybridised with the native bluebell and spread into some woods
heath and dry grassland
Flower
many narrow deep blue bells on one side of the stem. Sweet smelling, end of petals curled back
many light to mid blue bells, not much scent, petal ends curved up rather than back
a few comparatively broad bell flowers looking sparse on the stem. No curve to the end of the petals
Pollen
creamy white
pale green or blue, but when the pollen is shed the anthers are creamy white
 
Flower stem
Quite a thick stem which appears to be bowing under the wieght of the bells.
erect thick stem rather then a nodding one
very fine, barely thicker then a human hair
Leaves
lots of long green narrow leaves which grow from the base of the plant
Lots of long green slightly broader leaves which grow from the base of the plant
a few small leaves roundish at base of stem pointy higher up
A comparison of the English bluebell, Spanish bluebell and Harebell

Other Flowers you might See in a Bluebell Wood

wood sorrel
wood sorrel | Source
primrose
primrose | Source

How to find your bluebell wood

The Woodland Trust is a good place to start. Put your postcode into their database and tick the bluebells option box. Up come the best bluebell woods nearest to you. Don’t despair if there isn’t one nearby. Unticking the bluebell box brings up more woods and you will find that many of these still have a very respectable display of bluebells.

If you haven’t visited your chosen wood before, go now even if it isn’t bluebell season, to get to know the wood. Being familiar with a place means you are more likely to see it at its best and there are usually lots of other flower species to enjoy in a bluebell wood at different times of year. If it isn't bluebell season, get chatting to other visitors in the wood. They will often be able to tell you if it is a good bluebell wood or not.

From the beginning of April, try to visit the wood once a week. You can enjoy a glimpse of the first bluebells to emerge and then watch as the colour builds each week until the bluebells are at their best, then start to shrivel and go over.

Once you know the wood well, having visited over several years, you will be able to predict more accurately when the bluebells will be at their peak in your favourite wood. Then you can share the pleasure by taking your friends to see the bluebells.

Bluebell Woods in Lancashire

show route and directions
A markerHagg Wood -
Hagg Wood, Burnley, Lancashire BB12, UK
get directions

One of my favourite Woodlands with a good display of bluebells and other flowers.

B markerCastle Clough Wood Hapton -
Castle Clough Wood, Hapton, Lancashire BB11, UK
get directions

Great fun to explore this wood is partly in a gorge so the bluebells flower later.

C markerHeald Wood Burnley -
Heald Wood, Burnley, Lancashire BB12, UK
get directions

This is a much loved local wood noted for its bluebells

D markermoses gate country park -
Moses Gate Country Park, Bolton
get directions

If you're looking for bluebells head for Darcy Lever ponds which is an area of woodland and ponds.

E markerTockholes Wood -
Wood St, Darwen, Blackburn with Darwen BB3, UK
get directions

A particularly attractive wood in every season. Well worth repeat visits.

F markerHyning Scout Wood -
Hyning Scout Wood, Carnforth, Cumbria LA6, UK
get directions

As well as a great bluebell display and lots of wildlife, there is an old lime kiln at Hyning Scout WOod.

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    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 4 years ago from Southern Nevada

      Your photos and information are amazingly beautiful.

      My sister still lives in Bromley south of the Thames and goes to St. Andrews Woods. She has many photo's like you of blue bells as she knows I love them and can't grow her in Nevada and of course there are no woods close by.

      Voted across the top except of funny, Joyce.

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      Beautiful and informative, the English Bluebells are my favorite flower. Very well done, wish I could go to England, I really do.

    • profile image

      summerberrie 4 years ago

      I have never heard of English Bluebell Woods. These woods look so beautiful in full bloom. The English Bluebells must seem so enchanting in the early morning light. Voted up and beautiful.

    • TahoeDoc profile image

      TahoeDoc 4 years ago from Lake Tahoe, California

      Beautiful photos and great information. It relaxed me to watch the video and listen to the birds sing and look at the pretty scenery. Well done.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      I have never heard of English Bluebell Woods before, but with all your great information within this well written hub it has helped me learn more about it,Thanks and well done !

      Vote up and more !!!

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Voted up and awesome. What lovely woods! Thanks for sharing.

    • Fennelseed profile image

      Annie Fenn 4 years ago from Australia

      I love bluebells. I wish I could see a natural english bluebell wood. I have planted some bluebells bulbs under some tress in my garden in the hope that they will naturalise. They are such beautiful flowers and I can only imagine what a bluebell carpet would look like in the wild. The Woodland Trust provide a wonderful service, I have never heard of anything like that before!!! Your hub provides so much Nettlemere, from what to look for, where and when to look and even what else you may find if too late or to early for bluebells!!! What more could I ask for!!

      Lovely hub, great information and photos and details of where to go. My votes to you, Nettlemere and sharing!!!

    • snowdrops profile image

      snowdrops 4 years ago from The Second Star to the Right

      English Bluebell Woods? Found this very interesting and new to me.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

      Oh, what precious flowers! They're so beautiful and delicate - and charming to see. I'm so eager to visit England now, and your bluebell information just makes me more eager. Thanks for this lovely hub! Voted up and up.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Bluebells are beautiful flowers, and I enjoyed your video, photos and descriptions very much, Nettlemere. I used to live in Britain and can't remember seeing a bluebell wood, but I've never forgotten visiting a wood that was carpeted with primroses, just like in your last photograph. That was a wonderful experience.

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      A beautiful hub, with fabulous photos and lots of interesting information - a sheer pleasure to read thank you and voting up.

    • Nettlemere profile image
      Author

      Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Joyce - I'm glad I was able to send a bit of bluebell loveliness to Nevada. I wonder if it would be possible to grow them in a pot there if you froze the bulbs in the freezer for a month and then put them in the fridge for a month to try and mimic winter. (I've never tried it myself).

      E healer, Summerberrie, TahoeDoc and Kashmir, I'm pleased you enjoyed the bluebells, they are fleeting pleasure, but good to share.

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