In the southern part of the United Kingdom, Spring arrives early. By the end of February, new leaves begin to sprout and the daffodils are in the full bloom. After the passing of daffodils, comes the era of the Bluebells. The U.K boasts of a large number of places where sweet-smelling Bluebells cover vast acres of the forest woodland. From Perthshire in the North to Cornwall in the south, Bluebell watching is an important recreation for all lovers of the English garden.
Bluebells have always fascinated me. Even as a child, I have always imagined what it would be like to walk amidst a dense growth of green and purple. On a weekend in April, I decided to board the train from London Waterloo and visit the Bluebell woods at Winkworth Arboretum, Surrey. The train goes as far as Godalming station. From the Godalming station, it is another 2 miles walk to the arboretum.
I was blessed with a lovely weather and the walk to the arboretum was particularly pleasant. I went through tree tunnels, past pretty English houses, a race course and old stone churches. Had there been no Spring, the world would have lost half its charm. Spring is always a welcoming sight! “The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring.” – Bern Williams.
The Winkworth Arboretum priced at £9 per adult was somewhat crowded. Overlooking the rolling hills of Surrey, the arboretum itself is an unfinished 20th century masterpiece. Founded by Dr Wilfrid Fox, Winkworth is home to 1000 different species of plants and trees. It is owned by National Trust which organises many different walks and exhibitions all throughout the year.
The walking trails go over wooden bridges, muddy steps, along gently flowing streams and past a charming little boat house. A crunching sound of dry twigs attracted my attention; I noticed a wild spotted deer looking at me with black beady eyes. In autumn, the trees display a grandeur of colour and draws millions of spectators to its premises.
The arboretum is a nesting ground for swans; a pair of graceful white swans were quenching their thirst from a narrow channel of water. The much loved boathouse sits on the banks of the Winkworth Arboretum Lake. It overlooks the calm waters forming deep reflections of the puffy white clouds and the rich green foliage.
Spring was in the air! Walking through the winding forest road, I was reminded of the words of Arnulf Øverland:
The sun glides off over earth and sky,
fruit of my fecund mind:
I quicken: the world is new and lush!
I am the procreative seed,
I am the first word.
The native English Bluebells come in a deep blue colour and reach upto 50 cm in height. They are wild and can grow with very little care. A single stalk can hold 20 bulbs. During the flowering season, a large variety of bees, hoverflies and butterflies thrive on these bell shaped flowers. When millions of these grow together, the forest floor transforms itself into a carpet of purple – it is truly a miracle of Spring.
The Bluebell wood was the first of my flower trails in Britain. A year later, as I sit down to write, I am still haunted by the fresh images of the Bluebells that have neither left me nor my senses. If I ever went missing, you’d know where to find me – beneath the shady trees and amidst the Bluebells.