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May 5, 2017

Blow Away those Winter Blues

There is a silent eloquence
In every wild bluebell
That fills my softened heart with bliss
That words could never tell.

– Anne Brontë

It can sometimes seem a long haul through the darkness of winter, but come the spring, spirits start to lift as nature starts to show its paces.

From mid-April till May, the woods and hills of West Dorset must be one of the most beautiful places to be on Earth. Your senses will be so pleased in a bluebell glade – the sight of the rolling blue carpet under brilliant green leaves, the sound of all the woodland birds proclaiming their territory, and the scent of the flowers drifting on the soft breeze as it ruffles your hair.

At this verdant time of year, the wildflowers are still pristine and fresh, ferns are unrolling their fronds, and the trees are at their best. So why not find a sunny day to go out and enjoy this fleeting spectacle? There are so many good places locally, but we’ve picked a couple of the best.

Eype Down

Just west of Chideock, this offers fine views, bluebell lawns and woods. Park in the layby off the A35 on the crest of the hill out of Chideock, cross the road and walk up the track towards the sea. From the top, look west towards Golden Cap and east over Bridport. Don’t forget to look back at Colmer’s Hill with its flanks swathed in blue, then go on to explore the undulating hills and woods of the down, all covered in bluebells, dotted with white stitchwort and pink campion.

Give yourself an hour or two to make the most of the scenery, or take a picnic!


Bluebell lawns

Hooke Woods

The woodland campus of The Architectural Association, this beautiful beech woodland is ablaze with blue in the spring, and is scattered with experimental buildings and sculptures to find. It’s said that anyone who has visited will never find another bluebell wood as perfect as this – it’s certainly a striking sight with tall straight beeches and rolling carpets of flowers.

There is limited parking, so it’s best to get there early while the sun is low and the dog-walkers aren’t out in force! From Beaminster, take the B3163 Whitcombe Road to the east. After about 1½ miles, take a right turning signposted Hooke; follow that for another ½ mile or so till you come to a forestry entrance on the right where there is room for 2-3 cars to park away from the gate. Walk from the car straight into the woods and follow a circular path back to the road; the main entrance is just a bit higher up the hill. The walk is fairly level and surfaced; allow yourself an hour or two to enjoy the tranquillity and listen to the birds!

bluebells and pinkbells


Other places to visit to see bluebells

Almost any open woodland will have bluebells in late April and early May – but Lambert’s Castle and nearby Coney’s Castle (off the B3165 Marshwood road) are two Iron Age hill forts with fine views over the Marshwood Vale and lots of flowers. Champernhayes Forest is an extensive woodland with easy access and surfaced tracks, again off the B3165, and Lewesdon Hill near Beaminster – the highest hill in Dorset – is a good place too. Finally, we must mention Langdon Wood, just inland from Golden Cap, which has easy parking and level access.

hooke woods

Morning mist and sunshine through the trees

Article and Images by Lois Wakeman

Category: Wildlife