I know it’s a blogger cliche to head off each season for a photoshoot amongst the different fields of flowers, but it’s one that I love. There’s nothing like that splash of colour to make a perfect backdrop for a family photo. Spring is always dominated for me by the vast carpets of bluebells that spring up in woodlands across the country – the colour and scent combination can’t be beaten. But finding that elusive carpet of purple can be a bit more tricky – last year we headed to numerous ‘bluebell spots’, only to find that they are roped off for their protection which makes it impossible to take any photos (Hatchlands National Trust – I’m thinking of you!). So I’ve put together my top bluebell spots in the South East of England – some well known, some a bit more off the beaten track, but hopefully at least one near you.
Winkworth Arboretum, Surrey
I have to admit that I’d not been to Winkworth Arboretum until this year when we visited specifically for the bluebells. This is bound to be a regular spot for us though – it’s a vast woodland, so even in the height of bluebell season and at the weekend, doesn’t feel overcrowded. The bluebells are spectacular, with little paths winding through them, allowing you to get those photos without risking trampling any of the flowers.
Micheldever Woods, Hampshire
Micheldever Woods is a large wood, near Alresford, with the M3 running through it. But don’t let that put you off – it’s a spectacular spot for bluebells. It’s a working wood, and more of a dog walker’s spot, so parking is limited, but there are numerous spots to pull over and head off into the woods. Do keep walking on in and don’t be tempted to settle for the first little carpet you come across – the deeper into the woods, the better the payoff!
Hinton Ampner, Hampshire
Not too far from Micheldever Woods, Hinton Ampner is a National Trust, whose woodland is home to huge numbers of bluebells. You can see photos and more information about Hinton Ampner’s bluebells on the National Trust website. For enthusiasts, if you follow their facebook page, they normally give updates on when the bluebells are looking at their best too!
Emmett’s Garden, Kent
We discovered Emmett’s Garden and their bluebells years ago when we lived in South London. They have a small woodland with a winding path through it which leads you through the bluebells. It’s a lovely spot and a perfect length trail for children – so often a walk into the woods can lead to them being tired before you arrive at the bluebells themselves!
Gatton Park, Surrey
Gatton Park is a Capability Brown designed parkland near Reigate, and it’s large estate is home to Nut Wood, which is known for it’s beautiful bluebells.
Leith Hill, Surrey
Franks Wood at Leith Hill is well known for it’s beautiful bluebells. Follow the National Trust’s Woodland Walk which will take you on a scenic route, taking in the bluebells as you go. A fair trek, so probably not the best for young children!
Tips for photographing the bluebells
Bluebells usually bloom from mid-April to mid-May. The National Trust sites listed above will give updates on when their bluebells are looking their best via their facebook and twitter accounts, so it’s worth checking those out before you head off.
A bright, but not too sunny day is ideal – the contrast that very bright sunlight brings can be very difficult to work with in woodland.
Look for a focal point for your photo. Obviously if you’re taking photos of your family this is done for you, but otherwise look for fallen trees, logs, or paths, that will draw the eye.
Do be mindful of where you are walking. Trampled bluebells are unable to flower the following year as they lack the energy required. To ensure the bluebells are preserved, avoid stepping on them and stick to paths or clearings through them. When you shoot from a low-ish angle, it’s easy to achieve the illusion that your subject is sitting in amongst them, when in reality they are sat in a little clearing.
All that being said, you can find the most beautiful bluebell spot in the country, and sometimes your children still won’t want to play ball! Such is life!
Do you know any other great spots in the South East? I like to look for new ones every year, so do let me know!