Is it just us? We get excited about bluebells the way the Japanese get excited about cherry blossom – though the bluebell season lasts longer than the cherry blossom season. We wait for them. We have woods that we know will have wonderful displays. The blue. The faint scent when you’re in the middle of them.
There’s a zig-zag path up a steep slope in Monkleigh woods, that takes you up through a lake of bluebells. It was the last place I went before I got ill last year. My friend Katy took me. We were laughing about it the other day – she was worried she’d have to carry me home. I tower over her, probably hit twice her weight.
There are bluebells on the grass banks along the lane here. I took my mum there last year, because she can’t walk so well now, and she wanted to see the bluebells. Brownsham woods has bluebells and a moment when you come out on the cliff top and see the sea.
Our favourite bluebell spot is the wood up the lane. My son, F, discovered them. A neighbour runs his bullocks through the wood, so the undergrowth is kept nibbled back – it’s like walking through parkland. You drop down through a field, an old abandoned orchard, and there you are. A sea, a river, a lake of bluebells. An inverted sky.
It’s the colour, the scent and the sheer abundance. Abundance like a murmuration of starlings, or an orchard full of blossom. Abundance is joyful, thrilling, and we don’t often see it.
I can remember, as a child, collecting armfuls of bluebells. My arms were smaller then, and picking wildflowers was allowed. You went up the avenue, past the wasteground, past the centre, and found a wilder landscape. There was a wood there, and an abundance of bluebells. They fade so quickly once picked, the colour darkens and goes bitter, the scent disappears. You should never pick them.
You can’t photograph a bluebell wood. I’ve seen paintings that evoke them – my grandparents had one, a reproduction, and friends in Bristol have the same painting. It’s not great art, but it was obviously loved enough to be reproduced and to find its way into people’s homes. Paintings can capture the overwhelm, but photographs don’t seem to.
None of them capture the scent. It’s sweet but subtle. It envelops, embraces. You just have to inhale gently and accept it.
💙 Sarah 💙
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