‘Bluebell Blues’ at Badbury
At this time of year, it’s so beautiful outdoors that it’s hard to decide what we like best. Bluebells, however, would definitely be on our shortlist. I can’t think of many sights as emblematic of the British countryside as a carpet of native bluebells nestling under a wood of oak or beech trees. Every year, we eagerly await the moment when the ground turns blue in our local woods at Badbury Clump.
Badbury Clump is the site of an Iron Age hill fort. The circular site is divided into quadrants by two long, wide rides which cross at the centre. In each quadrant, mature beech trees stretch skyward above a carpet of bluebells. You can wander along the wide rides and there are also many enticing little paths which meander through the carpet of bluebells – it is truly a magical place. So it was with dismay that we heard that visitors are trampling the bluebells in the quadrants to such an extent that the National Trust has felt it necessary to cordon them off to protect them.
Bluebells are incredibly delicate and – from the moment the first shoots appear in January – they are easily damaged by footfall. Damaged leaves mean that the plants cannot generate enough energy to flower and then produce seeds. I had known all this, but hadn’t known that because bluebells take between five and seven years to establish themselves, minor damage can have long-lasting impact.
Little Sister and I visited Badbury Clump today. The National Trust had placed logs and branches around the four quadrants of bluebells to delineate them from the rides and discourage people from walking among them; there were also leaflets and signs that explained why the bluebells needed protecting from footfall, and pointed visitors towards designated ‘photo points’.
I told Little Sister that we could not walk as close to the bluebells as we usually did, and explained why. She was disappointed but readily accepted this. Every time we got to a place where a little path branched off into the quadrants of bluebells, she would pause, and say wisely, “I’d like to walk nearer to the lovely flowers, but I won’t, because I’m not supposed to, and because the flowers need a rest.”
Unfortunately, we saw several people who, after looking at the signs, stepped over the logs and branches, to frolic about all over the quadrants of bluebells. Perhaps they thought themselves so important that they couldn’t possibly comply with an entirely reasonable request not to walk through the bluebells. Or perhaps they were just incapable of comprehending something so simple that it was easily understood by a four-year-old.
Little Sister was quite scandalised and broadcast her displeasure at a volume that was just loud enough for the perpetrators to hear, but just quiet enough for it to seem unintentional. “Tut! The logs are there to keep the flowers safe, and it’s naughty to go past them, isn’t it, Mummy?” Chastisement having been delivered by Little Sister, my role was to fix the offenders with a ‘hard stare’ of which Paddington and his Aunt Lucy would have been proud.
Though we were confined to the main rides, we had a lovely walk. Little Sister was delighted by the blue colour and the light cast by the trees. Away from the quadrants we found numerous places where we could get closer to some bluebells and appreciate how truly beautiful they are.
Now though, I have ‘bluebell blues’, because it’s hard to see how the bluebells can recover while a significant minority of people are so uncooperative. To my mind, bluebell woods are definitely worth treasuring, and I hope that you can find some carpets of blue near you.
About the Author
About Me & Mine
Hi there! Helen and Ian here from the Oxfordshire-Wiltshire border! We have two boys who love everything in the Great Outdoors (especially sticks), and a border collie who also loves everything in the Great Outdoors (especially tennis balls). We also have a toddler daughter who is fiercely independent and proving to be just as intrepid as her brothers.
Favourite place in the world:
A difficult one... There are so many wonderful places to choose from... But it has to be Sandwood Bay in the far north-west of Scotland which can only be reached by a 4-mile walk. Last time we went it was a full-on winter mountaineering experience (with ice axe and crampons!) just to get there. Wild and windswept, it's totally unspoilt.
Favourite things to do outdoors:
Enjoy beaches, woods, and coastal paths; explore waterways in our open canoe; go for a big day out on a small hill; go rock climbing; collect sticks, conkers, and acorns; investigate puddles and rockpools; ride our tandem; fly a kite against a clear blue sky.