We were going to go to some bluebell woods this year, and then we weren’t, and then we finally were, but then again we weren’t…in the end we did make it and they were the most ethereal bluebell woods I’ve ever seen. The carpet of purpley blue (so rare in nature!) was the perfect backdrop for my Anaya With Love dress and I alternately felt like a woodland fairy or a figure from a Monet canvas.
We had to be extra careful while shooting amidst the bluebells because these ethereal woodland blooms are even more delicate than they look! If your social media feeds are heavy on the cottagecore aesthetic (like mine!) you won’t get through the month of May without seeing at least a dozen photos and videos featuring these otherwordly patches of blue scattered across the forest floor. However, shooting or filming in bluebell woods requires a lot of care and attention, and here’s why.
English bluebells are a protected species
Ancient woodlands that burst into bluebells early in the summer tend to predominantly have English bluebells, which are a protected species and increasingly threatened by their more robust Spanish counterpart. Hybrid varieties of bluebells with characteristics of both strains are becoming ever more common thanks to cross pollination. However the Spanish bluebell is an invasive species and a lot hardier than the English variety. You can always identify English bluebells by 1.) the characteristic droop of the flowers, 2.) flowers growing on only 1 side of the stalk, 3.) a more purple tone rather than blue, and 4.) the sweet, flowery smell. In contrast Spanish bluebells are a lighter shade of blue, grow upright on both sides of the stalk, and generally have a less delicate appearance thanks to the fuller inflorescence on the stalk. As hybrid varieties of bluebells proliferate further in the wild, it’s increasingly common to find bluebells that have characteristics of both. So if you’re in any doubt at all about the variety of bluebell you’ve come across, don’t take it home with you especially if its flowering in the wild.
Bluebells damage easily
A single bluebell plant takes 5-7 years to grow from its bulb, and a damaged bluebell can take upto 5 years to come back. This is why you have to be extra careful in bluebell woods, because if you step on a single bluebell it’ll take 5 whole years to come back. Even if you’re not picking the flowers, any damage to the leaves severely compromises the plant’s ability to photosynthesise and it dies as a result. While it might look like I was nestled right amidst the bluebells in these photos, that effect is created entirely by perspective. In reality, I was standing or sitting on the paths between the flowers and Owen was shooting from the road that ran past the woods. I even took off my shoes and went barefoot as that gave me greater control over where I was stepping! So If you want to take photos like these in bluebell woods, please take the greatest care not to step on any part of the plant!
Bluebells thrive when undisturbed
While posting some of these photos on Instagram, I happened to look though the bluebell and bluebellwoods hashtags and was quite disheartened to see countless photos of people posing their dogs and babies right on top of clusters of woodland bluebells. Please don’t do this! If your children are old enough to understand the importance of not damaging flowers in the wild (like Lila is!) then that’s a different matter altogether, but as cute as it might be to get a shot of your baby crawling amidst the bluebells it also means that your baby will be in primary school by the time those flowers have a chance to come back. The same goes for dogs. If you’re walking with your dog in bluebell woods, please keep them on a leash and stick to the broader walking paths. That way everyone else can also enjoy these magical blooms for years to come.