May – Bluebells
Illustration: Greg Stevenson
Words: Mathew Clayton
Bluebells used to flower in the south east at the time of my mother’s birthday on May 5th but recently they have started appearing later in the month. My brother owns an acre or two of wood just outside Plumpton in Sussex and for the last few years has thrown a picnic around this time. I can’t think of a nicer way to spend an afternoon than idling in a wood surrounded by bluebells.
I love the combined effect of their leaves and flowers. The leaves carpet the wood in green and then floating above them is the violet sea of flowers. Best of all is looking at them in the distance: a blue mist threaded round the trees. Roger Deakin described the feeling of being ‘submerged in woodland’ and i think this sense of entering a magical underwater realm is never so great as at this time of the year.
Woods occupy dual positions in our culture. They are both a scary place where bad things happen (especially during winter) and a place of merriment and escape. The Welsh poet and artist David Jones, who lived for a few years just a couple of miles from Plumpton, is quoted in Roger Deakin’s book Wildwood, ‘To groves always men come both to their joys and their undoing. Come lightfoot and heart’s ease and school free. Walk on a leafy holiday…’ I think of the bluebell season as the woodland version of the Ibiza opening parties. A spectacular display designed to entice you back in amongst the trees for the rest of the summer.