Discover the Bluebells at Hinton Ampner
Spring has arrived and what better way to brighten your day than with the sight and scent of bluebells covering a woodland floor on a warm spring day.
With over half the global population of bluebells flowering in UK woods, Britain’s beautiful blue spring is a quintessential part of our native landscape. And 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. Bluebells normally appear in late April and early May.
Matthew Oates, former naturalist for the National Trust, adds: “The bluebell starts growing in January with its sole purpose to flower before the 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.”
Our bluebells have quite a lot to contend with, not least the invasive and more hardy Spanish bluebell, introduced to our gardens around 300 years ago. Over the years these have spread more widely and begun to hybridise with native flowers, producing tougher plants with dominant genes.
The main visible difference between the varieties is that native bluebells are slightly smaller, have narrow leaves, drooping heads, a violet bell-shaped flower and a delicate but distinctive fragrance. Spanish bluebells are wider-leaved, stand erect and have no scent. Their flowers have less of a bell and are a more ‘hyacinth’ blue.
Bluebells are very fragile flowers. Once trodden on, their soft, succulent leaves are unable to absorb the sun and to photosynthesise so they die back. This means they can’t put food back into their bulbs, reducing their ability to produce flowers and seeds.
You see it in popular bluebell woods where narrow tracks made by walkers soon become wider and the bluebells end up in island-like patches instead of the blue carpets we all love. If you keep to the paths, you'll help to protect our native bluebell woods.
In our ancient woods at Hinton Ampner you can stroll along broad tracks, surrounded by swathes of bluebells. Pick up a map at visitor reception or download our Dutton Estate trail. We've also got a guided spring walk with our Head Gardener, John, on Bank Holiday Monday, 7 May. See below for further details.