Bluebells at Ashridge Estate
Ashridge Estate sees large areas of bluebells flowering each year which attracts large numbers of visitors. With the flowering window being short over April and May, this creates great pressure on the woodland and its flora during this period.
Bluebells have finished flowering at Ashridge Estate for 2023
We expect to see them again in April 2024.
Looking after bluebells at Ashridge Estate
Our Countryside Manager tells us why bluebells are so special and how you can help look after these delicate woodland flowers.
What's so special about bluebells?
The presence of bluebells is a sign that a woodland is ancient and has been present in the landscape for at least 400 years. Bluebells, and other woodland flowers, don't spread to new areas easily or quickly, so it is vital to protect them.
Woodland flowers like bluebells come out in spring. This means that they are able to make the most of the available light before the leaves appear on the trees and start to cast too much shade. Bluebells are also an important source of pollen and nectar for butterflies, bees, and hoverflies at the start of the season.
Our Management of the bluebells
Damage to footpaths in winter
Our feet can do more damage that we think. The clay soils and wet winters at Ashridge have resulted in very wet paths during the winter months. Whilst these paths are wet and muddy, visitors, understandably don’t want to wade through deep mud so walk along the drier edge or create alternative routes. This widens existing paths or creates new paths which can quickly widen with use. During the winter it is easy to miss the damage that this causes to woodland flowers beneath the surface. Increased footfall on these new paths or widening edges causes compaction of the ground and damage to bluebell bulbs under the surface.
We closed the following footpaths at Ashridge over winter 2022/23 to give them time to recover:
- Snowberry's Ride
- Delly's Ride
- Flat Isley's
These are currently open for the drier months but may regularly be closed over winter periods. When we close paths there is signage in place at path entrances and we ask that you adhere to closures and use other paths instead. Depending on ground conditions, some of these routes may remain closed into spring.
Look out for badgers
Many of our resident badgers have created trails across the estate which can sometimes be mistaken for visitor paths so for 2023 we have created new eye-catching badger signs. Keep an eye out for them and please stick to main paths.
Responsible viewing of bluebells
The plants will start to flower in mid-April and are normally at their best during the last week of April and first week of May. Bluebell season is very busy at Ashridge Estate, and we advise visitors to visit off peak where possible.
A sea of bluebells can be an irresistible sight and it may be tempting to step into the sea of blue for a photo opportunity. However, you can get just as good a shot by keeping your feet on the footpath. The delicate soft leaves of bluebells are easily damaged, and this stops them from being able to photosynthesize meaning they die back. In turn, this means they can’t put food back into their bulbs, reducing their ability to produce flowers and seeds. Watch your step and the bluebells will continue to flower for years to come.
As tempting as it may be, bluebells are a protected species, and it is against the law to pick them as well as uproot or intentionally destroy them. If you want to take a bluebell souvenir home with you, please visit the shop instead. It stocks a wide variety of products including bluebell scented candles, porcelain, mugs, cards, and magnets.
Keep dogs on a lead
Please keep dogs on a lead while enjoying the bluebells. Not only can dogs running through the flowers cause damage, but all parts of the bluebell plant contain toxic glycosides that are poisonous.
You can help to look after bluebells for many years to come by:
- Following directional signage at all times
- Sticking to main paths
- Not allowing dogs or children to run into the bluebells
- Taking photos from paths or designated photography spots only
- Not picking bluebell flowers
Bluebells are very slow to reproduce, and it can take around seven years for them to recover from damage.
Dockey Wood is the best place to view bluebells on Ashridge Estate and we are actively managing this area for visitors. We have installed low level fencing around some of the visitor routes and created spots for you to take photos.
Recent forestry works to improve the health of the woodland resulted in more light reaching the floor which allowed brambles to grow vigorously. This is a natural process, and the brambles will die off naturally as the canopy spreads blocking out the light again. However, to speed up this process we experimented with clearing some brambles in 2021 to see if this could be done without damaging the bluebells. Early signs show it has been successful and we will continue this work over coming years to improve the experience of Dockey Wood.
How to get to Dockey Wood?
The car park at Dockey Wood is very small with space for only 50 cars and can get extremely muddy when wet. Do not park along the roadside as this can be dangerous and block access for emergency vehicles. We recommend parking at the Visitor Centre on Monument Drive and walking along the waymarked route to Dockey Wood. The route is approximately 1.6 miles long and will take the average person 40 minutes.
How much to visit Dockey Wood?
We will be charging visitors a small entry fee of £3 per adult and £1 per child (free for National Trust members) over the following weekends:
- 29 April to 1 May
- 6 to 8 May
- 13 to 14 May
All income from these weekends will go directly back into caring for the Ashridge Estate
We are looking at making changes to the infrastructure across the estate to help manage the careful balance of increased visitor numbers with the impact on nature. Read about the 'Protecting Our Roots' project and find out more about our vision for the future of Ashridge Estate.
Find out how we work to look after the UK’s bluebell population and what you can do to help us protect this much-loved wild flower.
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Ashridge is a two pawprint rated place with over 80 miles of pathways. Find out more here.