When winter fades a sure-fire sign of springtime is a flaming carpet of woodland bluebells. The Wye Valley and Forest of Dean is home to the UK’s finest displays of the iconic bloom, with dozens of the top spots to see splashes of colour that bring our countryside back to life.
Residents and visitors from across the UK and abroad annually flock to photograph and stroll among a spectacular sea of breath-taking colours from rich dark blue when they are at their youngest and freshest, to the softer pale blues as summer months draw closer.
Wye Valley & Forest of Dean Tourism has put together its top 10 places to see scenes full of these delicate, fragile flowers. A bluebell wood in full flower is a true assault on the senses and symbol of the beauty and seasonality of our world.
Maureen McAllister, executive director of Wye Valley & Forest of Dean Tourism, said: “There is no more magical place in the UK to see woodland bluebells than the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean, Britain’s Favourite Forest*. Bluebells are usually at their best during mid-morning, making it a great time to visit when you get the softer dappled light on a sunny day and their scent wafting through the air.”
There are many breath-taking vistas found deep in the trees or viewed from the road, check out these 10:
From Dean Heritage Centre you can discover a magical walk or drive through the woodland of Soudley up Bradley Hill towards Blackpool Bridge. Take time to admire the carpet of blue under the coppice of trees as you reach the old Roman road. Continue into the Wenchford picnic site and you’ll be rewarded with a lagoon of bluebells.
- Tintern Abbey and Brockweir
One of the most famous bluebell views is from Brockweir Wood. The valley rolls down to the striking ruins of Tintern Abbey and rises once again into seas of blue on the opposite fields. Bluebells in the Wye Valley tend to be out a couple of weeks before their Forest counterparts.
3. St Briavels Castle
Built in the early twelfth century, St Briavel’s was an important royal castle on the frontier with Wales before becoming a crossbow bolt factory in the reign of Edward I. Now a youth hostel, it makes a fantastic starting point for walks in the surrounding woodland which becomes a riot of blue from the end of April.
4. Coed Beddick
Before heading down to Parva Farm Vineyard for a tipple, be sure to explore Coed Beddick, the woodland that overlooks the vines.
5. Beechenhurst Lodge
In the heart of the Forest of Dean, Beechenhurst makes the perfect base for exploring. Surrounded by unspoilt woodland, and just a stone’s throw from the famous Sculpture Trail, Beechenhurst is just the spot to set up a picnic and enjoy the blankets of blue all about you.
6. Speech House Hotel
The perfect place to enjoy Afternoon Tea with a view; Speech House Hotel is nestled in beautiful gardens. Take your tea as you overlook the ancient forest, bursting with spring colours, at its borders.
7. Cannop Ponds
Enjoy the blooms on two wheels along the cycle trail from Speech House to the beautiful Cannop Ponds. Wander along the water’s edge surrounded with trees sheltering a carpet of bluebells.
8. Symonds Yat
Though worth the walk all-year-round, Symonds Yat in spring is something to behold. With the canopy still budding, you can look down into the Wye Valley and spot bluebell woods for miles around.
9. Lydney Park Gardens
As well as boasting gorgeous gardens, Lydney Park Estate has evidence of settlements dating back to 100BC, a Norman castle and extensive ruins of a Roman camp including a Roman temple.
Over time many impressive, exotic and rare trees have been planted in the Deer Park by successive generations of owners while the rich earth of the eight-acre woodland garden provides one of the most spectacular shows of bluebells around. Visit again later in the month to see fantastic displays of rhododendrons and azaleas.
- May Hill
Visible from many points around the Forest of Dean, May Hill is a well-known landmark with a distinctive clump of trees on its peak. Commanding views from the brow of hill reveal swathes of bluebells on its slopes.
The bluebells will be at their best this year in early to mid-May and are usually found in oak or deciduous woodland, the big coniferous woods are too dark for bluebells. A video of the bluebells can be seen here http://www.wyedeantourism.co.uk/bluebells