Bluebells at Lydford Gorge

Bluebells on the slopes above the river

Bluebells cover the steep slopes of the gorge from mid April to May. Being on the edge of Dartmoor and sitting around 150m above sea level, the bluebells can be later to arrive here than other Devon woodlands.

When bluebells reach their full glory and carpet the woodland floor they are a delightful sensory experience that can’t fail to raise the spirits. Victorian poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson described bluebells as

‘like the blue sky breaking up through the earth.’ 

However there are other wild flowers to look out for in the gorge that can be just as delightful but don’t get all the headlines.

Starry white wild garlic flowers spring out from dark green leaves. You are likely to smell this before you spot it on your walk. 

Wild garlic at Lydford Gorge
Wild garlic growing at Lydford Gorge
Wild garlic at Lydford Gorge

Bright yellow lesser celandines grow low to the ground near the path edges. English poet William Wordsworth was so fond of them he wrote many poems about them.

‘There’s a flower that shall be mine,
'Tis the little Celandine.’

Look out for this spring favourite
Lesser celandine at Ashridge Herts
Look out for this spring favourite

Pink purslane grows in the wetter areas of the gorge and despite being a naturalised species, not a native, enhances the view with drifts of delicate pink flowers. The rangers are trying to keep this introduced species from smothering the native wild flowers by removing plants that emerge in any new areas.

Bluebells, wood sorrel, wood anemones and other plants found in the gorge are all ancient woodland indicator species. They tell us that Lydford Gorge has been continuously wooded for over 400 years.

Britain's woodland resources started declining in the middle ages and reached an all-time low of just 5% of land area by the 1900s. The First World War put huge demands on sourcing British timber for trench warfare and construction. The woodland in the gorge was saved from destruction because of its terrain, the steep slopes and thins soils make removing timber almost impossible.

The inaccessibility of the gorge is something the rangers still have to work around when doing their jobs today. Any tools, equipment or materials they need have to be carried in by hand or winched into place gradually.

Fixing the steps and path edging after being damaged by a fallen tree
Fixing steps and path edging damaged by a fallen tree
Fixing the steps and path edging after being damaged by a fallen tree

By visiting the gorge you are helping the rangers to look after this unique location. Please also help by not trampling or picking the flowers, they are best enjoyed in their natural habitat.