Blakes Wood

In my last post I visited Danbury Common in Essex. After getting over the disappointment of not seeeing snakes we headed to Blakes Wood which is another National Trust site situated on the opposite side of Danbury to the Common. It’s an area of ancient woodland, predominantly hornbeam and sweet chestnut under which the ground was covered in withered chestnut husks emptied of their contents long ago by squirrels or mice, and in the springtime wood anemones (Anemone nemorosa) and bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) carpet the forest floor.

Bluebells have been voted Britains favourite flower and they normally reach their flowering peak in mid May.

Bluebells are delightful flowers when there is only one plant, but when they stretch across a forest floor as far as the eye can see they’re absolutely magical. I didn’t expect to see any at the weekend, it still being March, but they are starting to flower already.

The Natural History Museum is conducting a survey of bluebell flowering times as a means of monitoring climate change. A quick glance at the data is starting to get alarming, the earliest flowering time seems to be getting earlier, from first flowerings in Essex in May in 2010, moving to the middle of March in 2012, in just three years since the study commenced. I don’t know what the long term ramifications of climate change will be for our native flora and fauna, we’ll have to wait and see but I hope the bluebell woods survive.

A single wood anemone protruding through the bluebell leaves

The wood anemones are as beautiful as the bluebells even if they don’t have the same level of ‘Wow‘ factor. The forest at Blakes Wood was liberally bespattered with carpets of wood anemones and I got down in the undergrowth to try to fill the frame with flowers:

I was keen to capture a shot with both anemones and bluebells in the same frame and that turned out to be tricky because of the sparsity of the bluebells, but I eventually found this one:

Spanish bluebell bulbs have been sold in garden centres but they are a different species, Hyacinthoides hispanica, to our UK bluebells. Flytipping of garden waste has resulted in the Spanish variety getting into our woods and cross breeding with the native species. This is a real problem because it is anticipated the hybrids may eventually take over from the natives, but I console myself that the invaders and hybrids are lovely to look at too. I can’t wait to visit the woods again in May when the bluebells are in full bloom, and when I do I’ll share the results with you.

26 responses to “Blakes Wood

  1. I was there on Thursday in the recently coppiced area to on the main path down from the car park (the left path) around 7pm. I was sat on a newly made bench amongst the cleared wood when a stoat strutted past and climbed into a pile of timber. A few noisy moments later, 2 stoats came tumbling out wrapped around each other then went chasing across the path into the vegetation. One of the stoats soon returned (the victor?) and hung around moving from pile to pile for 15 mins. Light was fading so only got a couple of ropey photos.

    Will looking for adders. Met a couple dog walkers on Lingwood who told me adders are seen there still regularly on sunny mornings, but I’m still to find their locations.

    Plenty muntjacs though. 2 in Blake’s on Thurs.

    • Hello Chris, great result with the stoats, I haven’t seen that for many years. It’s good to know the adders are still around, let me know how you get on, I’ll try to get along there myself soon too.

  2. Beautiful images, Finn, thanks for sharing. And yes, the climate change data are alarming. Sigh.

    • Thanks Ruth.

      Sigh indeed. Major climate change seems to be well under way now (for a real case-in-point see Gary’s comment re the North Minnesota lake ice) with worryingly unpredictable consequences. I think we may be in for a climatological white knuckle ride for the foreseeable future!

  3. Things are way too warm way too early here, too, to my great concern. Just returned from our cabin in northern Minnesota, and all the lake ice is gone. I don’t remember this ever happening this early in the year.

  4. I love, love, love your site! Thank you for sharing your beautiful expressions of nature.

  5. Hi Finn,

    Having had a brief glance at my 14-year sample, only 1995 (excepting this year) produced a March date for first flowering of Bluebell. That indeed makes this year’s occurrence, the earliest ever on my records.

    As always, an interesting account from you and some very good photographic captures too.

    Best Wishes

    Tony Powell

    • Hello Tony, thanks for your comment, I’m glad you like the pictures. I guess we need to see if the early flowering continues to see if it becomes a trend. It seems that everything climatological is becoming erratic and intrisically unpredictable in the medium to long term. You have an invaluable data repository and I think your phenological records will become more important as time progresses.



  6. Forgot to add, I also love the anemones, with their bright, crisp yellow and white flowers. I love seeing them, as I do all wild flowers.

  7. Beautiful photos Finn. I’m not too surprised that the bluebell is Britain’s favourite flower, it’s such a cracker and has it all – shape, colour, wow factor when spread across the ground in a carpet… I haven’t seen any bluebells out up here yet but I’m really looking forward to the displays. There are some woods near here that usually have magnificent crops of bluebells and I hope it’s the same this year. I’ll have a look at that survey you mentioned too, it would be nice to contribute to it. Your statistics about the bluebells of Essex are astonishing.

    • Thanks Lorna, I’m looking forward to seeing a photo or two of your local bluebells alongside some delicious looking cakes! Let me know your thoughts on the survey, I don’t know if 2010 – 2012 were outliers but if they’re the start of a trend I may have to come up to Scotland to see any bluebells in 10 years time. Food for thought.

      • That is certainly food for thought, I hope it doesn’t get to that stage, although it would be lovely for you to come up to Scotland. Thank you for your comment on my blog by the way, I certainly won’t be deleting or editing it, you make an important point and I’m very pleased to let you make it there. I’ll respond later but right now a tearoom calls!

      • Scotland is on my list of places I have to visit, I particularly want to explore the Western Isles and the north west coast around Cape Wrath.

        (Thanks for posting the comment, that place had a profound impact on me, it’s not until I saw somewhere like that that the stuff I’d seen on TV became real and impossible to ignore)

  8. I can almost hear you speaking, Finn. I love your writing…your descriptions of the flowers and forest…and on other posts, the birds…and whatever else. So nice. Thank you. 🙂

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