One of the loveliest sights of spring is a woodland full of bluebells. In April and May, these delicate blooms pop up across the land, carpeting forest floors and grassy verges with waves of blue. Although Hyacinthoides non-scripta, or native bluebells, flourish widely across Western Europe, over half of the population is found here in the UK.
Bluebell colonies can take five to seven years to establish and potentially longer to recover from footfall damage. These wildflowers are key for identifying ancient woodlands - some bluebell woods date back to at least 1600 - and are an important species for us to protect.
There are plenty of wonderful places for spotting the blue-hued stems across Britain: from Loughrigg Fell in Cumbria and Urquhart Bay in Scotland to Killerton State in Devon and Sissinghurst Castle Garden in Kent. Here are nine of our favourite bluebell walks in England.
Nestled within 400 acres of Berkshire parkland, the historic and elegant Basildon House - an 18th century stately home restored by Lord and Lady Liffe in the 1950s - is first on our list of places to visit. Among the rolling hills of Basildon Park, pretty nature trails become framed by thick swathes of bluebells and daffodils from mid-April to May.
Some of the ancient trees within this nature reserve are more than 1,000 years old, giving a sense of historic majesty to your bluebell wanderings. Come April, the floor ignites the valleys with a riot of shady blues and other wildflowers.
Since 1972, this stretch of farmland in East Sussex has attracted anthophiles from far and wide with its glorious spring show of bluebells. Catch these blooms at their very best from early April.
Under a large maturing beech wood, with some pockets of mature conifer, you'll be greeted by a lush carpet of bluebells as far as the eye can see. Managed by the Forestry Commission, this 621-acre site puts on a dazzling display every spring. Visit early in the morning when the mist is rising to experience the forest magic at its best.
If you are looking for a fairy tale experience, this glorious estate has played the role of an enchanted forest in several films - Harry Potter and Les Misérables of note. Just 30 miles north of London, the property encompasses 5,000 acres of vast meadows and beech and oak woodlands riddled with a maze of footpaths and bridleways. Renowned for its bluebell season, here you'll find rows of tall trees enrobed in an intense cobalt-coloured mantle.
London's Kew Gardens is a prime place to see native bluebells, especially if you live in the city and don't have a car to get out and about. The managers of Kew have deliberately set aside 37 acres of land to be left in as wild a state as possible. This is where you will find a meandering walk that erupts into a magnificent blue carpet of the spring floral (and wild garlic) every April and May.
Nearby Collection inn: Aragon House, Parsons Green
Set in the rolling hills of the Chilterns, an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, lies another estate primed for a spectacular viewing. Greys Court is a 16th century mansion with a patchwork of picturesque walled gardens brimming with colour. April begins with a blanket of bluebells, and with more than 1,700 bulbs planted within the gardens, there are plenty of other blossoms to also enjoy during your visit.
This arboretum, managed by the National Trust for some 60 years, features more than 1,000 species of trees and shrubs, many of them rare. Visit at the right time in spring and you will be treated to a remarkable display of flowers growing en masse in the appropriately named Bluebell Wood. If you're lucky, the neighbouring Magnolia Wood may also be in bloom.
There are more than 20 acres of ancient woods at Standen House and Garden, an Arts and Crafts family home in the care of the National Trust. There are various walking trails to follow, many of which wind their way through a rich sea of flowers. Get your timings right, and you might also see Standen's famous tulips at the same time.
Discover more bluebell spots across England through the images below
Roseberry Topping, North Yorkshire Moors National Park
Lake District National Park
Last updated: 23.03.22
Photo credit: Unsplash (John McCann; Magdalena Smolnicka; Gabriel McCallin; Robert Wingate; Trevor Pye; Graham Pengelly; Crispin Jones; Click & Learn Photography)