There is no better place than an English woodland in May, and I’m lucky enough to live in a city with some of the finest bluebell woods I know.
Sheffield is a famously hilly city. Around a third of the city lies within the Peak District National Park and the western suburbs sit high up on the edge of the moors. Between the hills, proper wild corridors of ancient woodland reach down from moors to brush the city centre and you can be deep in the trees a short stroll from your house.
Ecclesall woods is one of the largest areas of suburban woodland and has some of the biggest expanses of bluebells. I go running there all the time but make sure never to miss the first couple of weeks in May when the forest floor turns blue and the sheer expanse of bluebells stretching off into the trees is heart-stoppingly beautiful.
One evening this week I swapped my lockdown blues for a different type of blue, wandering amongst the ancient oaks and chestnuts and sitting quietly watching the jays swoop from tree to tree and the grey squirrels helter-skelter round the trunks.
In folklore, bluebell woods are enchanted – wanderers beware in case the fairies get you! More prosaically, the gluey sap of bluebells was used to bind books and stiffen starched collars in ye olden days. In modern times bluebell woods have their own magical property by being virtually impossible to photograph well. Their beauty is elusive and what you see in front of your rarely lets itself be pinned down the lens.
Back in the garden, exciting things are happening. The mistletoe seeds I smeared on the apple tree back in February have done absolutely nothing for two months except for looking a bit dried out and occasionally falling off. However this week a few are sending out tiny shoots. As can be seen in the picture, these look like green pads stuck to the host tree rather than penetrating its bark and it will be fascinating to see what happens next.
Mistletoe update: September 2020