The western tip of the North Downs near Guildford is a beautiful piece of countryside. Green hills roll like waves all around you and at this time of year myriad wild flowers spring from every bank, lean as far as they can over rivers and cover every patch of ground that isn’t grass or tarmac. From this walk, I chose a plethora of plants to write about and can now barely make a decision. Looking back at the photos however I absolutely have to post these bluebells:
There was no wind this day – weather that always makes wild places feel other-worldly. Imagine then chancing upon this carpet of bluebells in the woods to the right of your dusty, tree-rooty path. The blue hovers a foot above the ground like dry ice floating over a stage in an eerie scene at the theatre.
There are few sights more characteristic of shady old English wood than this. But beware! There are invaders to be wary of and I keep seeing them; Hybrid Bluebell and Spanish Bluebell. They seem to grow anywhere, in direct sunlight, up from under fences along pavements, from beside gravestones and in people’s gardens. They’re a lighter blue and the flowers are more bell than trumpet-like. The natural history museum asks 3 questions to decide if your bluebell is a true Brit. These ones are because 1. they have a strong sweet smell, 2. they’re narrowly tubular and the petals are strongly curved and 3. the flower spike nods at the tip. Look:
This plant grows from bulbs which are poisonous. I haven’t squeezed any, but it says in The Modern Herbal, that they contain a sticky juice so glutinous that it was used to starch those projecting collars worn in Elizabethan times. More exciting, it was used to stick feathers to arrows and, if you have a really really old book bluebell juice could be the binding gum!