There are a few woods around Grantham where you can go and see wild bluebells. I saw a few plants flowering as early as the end of March when we had the week or two of glorious weather, but the majority are looking beautiful now in May.
Belvoir Woods, accessed by footpath from Stathern, a village several miles to the west of Grantham, is a good location to see carpets of bluebells within the woods – this is where the photographs on this page were taken. The map below shows where within the woods the largest abundances can be found.
Belton House, the National Trust property to the north-east of Grantham also has them in their woodland beside the river. You need to pay entry to get into the house and gardens unless you are a National Trust member (but, it goes without saying, it’s well worth it!)
This Sunday, the 20th of May, Harlaxton College will open its woods to the public to see the bluebells there. The college is based at the large manor just outside Harlaxton, visible on the left of the A607 as you leave Grantham heading west. The college is an outpost of the American University of Evansville. Access is through the village and the woods are open between 1pm and 3pm.
For other locations of bluebell woods, why not check out the National Trust’s Bluebell Map here.
For more info on the difference between native and Spanish bluebells, have a look at my recent post here.
Native bluebells are almost synonymous with English springtime, there is little more distinctive and evocative than the haze of blue they spread across a woodland floor. However the native English bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), is not the only bluebell we have. The Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica) was introduced as a garden flower and can produce fertile hybrids with the natives. Below is a brief guide to help you tell the difference.
1. Look at the leaves
Native bluebells have relatively thin leaves, around 1-1.5cm wide. Spanish bluebells on the other hand have much thicker leaves, around 3cm wide. The leaves of the Spanish bluebell often have a fleshier feel to them.
2. Look at the flowers
Native bluebells are a distinctive deep blue in colour, whereas Spanish bluebells are often lighter, more pale blue or pink. Look also at the shape of the flowers, the native bluebell flowers curl back at the petal tips whilst those of the Spanish bluebells are splayed. If you get down close, look at the colour of the anthers; these are cream in natives and a pale-blue colour in the Spanish.
3. Look at the architecture
Native bluebells have the flowers concentrated on just one side of the stem, giving them the distinctive nodding, drooping look. Spanish bluebell flowers are on all sides of the flower spike, giving the flower a much more upright appearance.
4. Sniff the flowers!
You should be able to pick up a sweet aroma from the flowers of the native bluebell whilst those of the Spanish bluebell are scentless.
5. Inconclusive results?
As I mentioned earlier, the two species do hybridise. This is one of the most significant threats that the Spanish bluebells pose to the natives, and also makes identification of some specimens rather difficult. If the specimen has intermediate characteristics eg. leaves around 2cm long, a general tendency for flowers to be on one side of the stem etc. then it is likely that you have a hybrid between the native and the non-native species.
I put together two little cribs which show the key characteristics of the typical English and Spanish bluebells below – hopefully these will provide an useful visual aid!