The sight and scent of bluebells covering a woodland floor on a warm spring day is one of the most magical experiences nature has to offer.
With over half the global population of bluebells flowering on UK shores, Britain’s beautiful blue spring is a quintessential part of our native landscape. The National Trust is one of the most important organisations in the UK for bluebells – a quarter of the Trust’s woodland is ancient or semi-natural; the ideal habitats for bluebells to flourish.
Matthew Oates, a naturalist for the National Trust, comments: “Bluebells start to grow in January with a sole purpose to flower before other woodland plants. However, timing of flowering depends on elevation, latitude, aspect, soils, geology and local climate conditions – they depend on warm ground conditions to help them grow. The true beauty of our bluebells – the intense blue colour, the delicate scent, the view – makes them an essential and special element to our springtime experience”.
The native bluebell species can be identified by its delicate scent, intense blue colour and flowers that droop down like a bell along one side of the stem. Bluebells usually burst into flower between April and May, but as they depend on warm ground temperatures to help them grow, can often appear earlier in the year.
The top National Trust places to enjoy a day out surrounded by nodding bluebells in East Sussex are:
Sheffield Park and Garden
The delicate heads of English bluebells emerge in copses, carpet clearings and spread under the canopies of trees and shrubs at Sheffield Park. The bluebells enhance and contrast beautifully with the naturalised planting in the historic ‘Capability’ Brown designed garden and its wider parkland, creating a spectacular spring show.
Andy Jesson, head gardener at Sheffield Park comments: “From disaster comes hope; the loss of many of our trees in the storms of 1987 and 1990 increased the light levels around the garden. This means that swathes of bluebells have now become a prominent feature in our garden. Spot them to the left of Auckland Walk and the gated copses on the parkland or stop for a picnic in the dappled sunlight”.
Elsewhere, spring colour makes its show in the garden at Sheffield Park in the form of azaleas, daffodils and rhododendrons, including the striking ‘Hinomayo’ edging the pathways with its clouds of dark candyfloss pink. Displays of spring flowering trees and shrubs light up hidden glades and line the banks of the lakes – their colourful reflection in the water makes for some stunning photography at this time of year.
Wednesday 27 April, 10am-12pm and Wednesday 4 May, 10am-12pm
Join us for a guided walk to see the natural wonder of our carpets of bluebells. You’ll be exploring some exclusive areas of the garden and parkland, so weather appropriate clothing and footwear is advised
Normal admission charges apply. Tickets £5 per adult, booking essential on 01825 790231
Bluebell fans are spoilt for choice at Standen, which offers several areas of bluebell coverage totalling around 20 acres. The most popular site is the four acres of bluebells within Rockinghill Wood, followed by Hollybush Wood.
James Masters, head gardener at Standen comments: “We’ve been restoring the woodlands at Standen to traditional coppice management, which has in turn made the bluebells flourish. It’s wonderful to see that an increasing number are flowering each year”.
“Most years the bluebells flower at the same time as the early purple orchids in Hollybush Wood, making a dramatic sight of blue and purple hues across the landscape. With lots of benches around the woods, it’s a great place to sit and enjoy the delicate scent and colour” adds James.
Weather conditions permitting, the bluebells at Standen may also coincide with over 8,000 bright and bold tulips carpeting the terraces and borders around the house and garden in mid-April to mid-May.
Pick up an estate walks leaflet for suggested routes through the bluebell coverage or download one online before you go.
Tulip garden tours
Sat 23 April, 8am and Thursday 28 April, 6pm
Join senior gardener Nick Delves for a special tour of the tulip displays followed by refreshments and light snacks
Tickets £15 per person, booking essential on 01342 323 029