Sunday, 10 May 2015

Bluebell etc season

Everyone always gets very excited at this time of year about 'bluebell season' - quite rightly so, as we have a significant proportion of the world's bluebells here in the UK. I'm very lucky to live close to several gems, and just love the perfumed waft of a bluebell wood. However, although it's great that people want to get out and immerse themselves in bluebells, some of the 'honeypot' sites can get a little busy! Here's my guide to bluebell woods surrounding Salisbury.

First up, I visited Garston Wood RSPB reserve - I've mentioned it before, and it really is THE most amazing place for bluebells, but actually, more so for wild garlic. Although I chose the Bank Holiday weekend to go, which was perhaps not a great idea - the car park is tiny, and the RSPB run guided walks during bluebell season, so the car park and narrow approach roads were rammed. However, on retracing my steps I found a bit of verge to park on (nothing interestingly botanically on it you'll be pleased to hear!) and actually entered the reserve in my favourite part. It is the bottom corner furthest away from the car park, and hence far fewer people venture here. This is also the best area for the wild garlic, and this year they were amazing - their scent contrasts wonderfully with those of the bluebells. On my meander I also encountered the aforementioned bluebells, wood anemone, and early purple orchids, including one enormous flower spike about 20cm long!

The next day I had a quick walk up Clarendon Park, including the ruined 12th century royal palace with the accompanying llamas, but culminating in a slightly longer walk through the beautiful ancient woodland along the Clarendon Way. Although not carpets of bluebells, the hazel coppice and huge ancient oaks and beeches are so atmospheric - you feel that time has stood still for centuries here. As well as bluebells I saw primroses and the amazing toothwort. This weird looking plant is a parasite on hazel in particular, and therefore has no need to photosynthesise, with the result that it is an eerie white colour.

Other bluebells woods - that I haven't yet visited this year and don't think I'll manage unfortunately - are those at Grovely near Wilton; Langley Wood NNR (well worth a visit - gorgeous bluebells and ancient trees); Blackmoor Copse and Bentley Wood (although very sparse) and Vernditch Chase next to Martin Down NNR. And Great Ridge Wood near Chicklade off the A303 has been highly recommended by friends too, although I haven't visited it myself.

So I'm certainly very spoilt for choice in the Salisbury area. next highlight is the burnt tip orchid count on Martin Down, which I have a feeling I may miss this year as the season seems a bit late - keep your eyes peeled if visiting the older part of the reserve from Sillens Lane car park.

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