Bluebells at the gorge

Bluebells on the slopes above the river

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

When bluebells appear and carpet the woodland floor they are a delightful sensory experience that you can’t fail to miss when you come across it.

Throughout the gorge there are other wild flowers to look out for 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 notice it if you brush past some on your walk.

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

Bright yellow celandines grow low to the ground near the path edges. Pink purslane likes to grow 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.

Bluebells are important as an ancient woodland indicator species. They tell us that Lydford Gorge has been continuously wooded since at least 1600.

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.