THIS YEAR’S BLUEBELL OPEN DAY AT HOLLINGTON WOOD IS LATE (but luckily so are the bluebells after all of this atrocious weather!). As usual, it’s on the Bank Holiday Monday 7th May between the hours of 10 am and 5pm.. Admission is free (but all donations are very gratefully received) and you are free to explore all of the wood for the day.
The following is the text from April’s feature article in Phonebox Magazine…
- Hollington Wood has always been known locally as The Bluebell Wood for very good reason. Almost the entire wood is a carpet of bluebells in April/ May. Even in the bramble-jungle-like parts they are still there, just more difficult to see. George Solt, the previous owner of the wood (now 90 years old, still thriving in Olney), established a formal Bluebell Open Day back in the 1970s and this has been continued by his son, Philip, who currently owns and manages the wood. The Solts have always viewed themselves as merely caretakers of such a wonderful ancient wood and believe that everyone should be given the opportunity to see the beauty of such a woodland at its peak. It is also hoped that your visit might give you a better understanding of ancient woodland, its importance and the threats facing our local flora and fauna. You are free to go wherever you want and just enjoy yourself but there will also be various nature activities available throughout the day, notably guided walks (between 11am and 2pm) with Philip, who has known the wood all his life. Children will have plenty to keep them entertained with Kids Activities by Anna and airsoft taster sessions with Carlos. Refreshments will include rare breed sausage hot dogs, homemade cakes & Primrose wine nouveau. Bluebell Day isn’t just about bluebells. There are many insects that rely on bluebell nectar, notably bumblebees and yellow brimstone, peacock and orange tip butterflies. And then there are all the other flowers – primroses, violets, early purple orchids, celandine, dandelions, stitchwort, herb paris, bugle… not to mention may and crab apple blossom. Possibly as beautiful as the riot of flowers are the patches of impossibly verdant woodland grass in those rare places not carpeted by bluebells. The magic of high spring comes from the freshness of everything – even the nettles look terrific at this time of year – and that brief window when all leaves have burst except the high canopy ash, thus allowing plenty of dappled sunlight through the ancient trees. Forget about ‘Ash before Oak…’ – it doesn’t happen anymore. Philip can explain if you want to know why…
The bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) is THE iconic British woodland flower. Although not exclusive to our shores, the British Isles are estimated to hold up to 50% of the world’s ‘common’ bluebells. They are an ancient woodland indicator species and are so wellloved that when the wild plant charity Plantlife organised a survey in 2004 to find a favourite flower for each county in the United Kingdom, it decided to ban voters from choosing the bluebell because it had been by far the top choice in an earlier poll for the nation’s favourite flower! Sadly, and it is a depressingly familiar story, the common bluebell is under threat. An alien invader, the Spanish bluebell (H. hispanica) which is sturdier and more vigorous, has spread from people’s gardens into the wild. It hybridises aggressively with H. non-scripta and many fear that the days of our native plant are numbered. Although it is increasingly difficult to be sure whether or not you are looking at a pure common bluebell, the characteristics to be looking for are –
- ● Deep violet-blue flowers rather than mid- to pale blue
- ● Sweetly scented with creamy white pollen
- ● Asymmetric flower stems tending to make them bend or ‘nod’
- ● Straight narrow bells
Some random facts about bluebells which might prove useful to you some day –
- ● They belong to the asparagus family (but don’t be tempted to eat them – all bluebell plant parts are poisonous)
- ● Common bluebells are actually the same colour as violets!!!
- ● Bluebell sap has been used by man for both violent and altruistic purposes – bluebell sap glued feathers to their
arrows and binded pages to the spines of books – while crushed bluebell bulbs provided the starch for Elizabethan ruffs and sleeves
- ● Bluebells are cunning – they have contractile roots which, over a period of time, pull their bulbs deeper and deeper into the ground (which explains why, as any gardener will tell you, they are wellnigh impossible to eradicate)
- ● Folklore says that if you hear a bluebell ring you’re about to pop your clogs!
Philip says that he remembers that in his childhood the bluebells would be at their peak on his birthday (15th May) but in more recent years they have been flowering earlier and earlier. This is almost certainly the bluebell’s response to global warming/climate change. He now regularly worries that they may be past their best by May Day. The most spectacular violet bluebell haze comes just before the flowers fully open, thereafter the white of the pollen progressively lightens the overall colour. On the day the nearest free parking is in Prospect Place, parking in the wood must be pre-booked – visit www.hollingtonwood.com/ product/car-parking for more details.