In search of bonny bluebells in Cheshire (with audio)
PUBLISHED: 15:22 21 May 2010 | UPDATED: 17:14 20 February 2013
As spring makes a welcome return, landscape photographer Alan Novelli takes to the road in search of Cheshire's bluebell woods<br/>WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALAN NOVELLI
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As Cheshires dazzling display of yellow daffodils begin to whither and wane with the onset of late spring, we find the humble bluebell ready to inject another vibrant colour back into the English landscape.
Outdoor lovers take delight in discovering these magical flowers carpeting the woodlands, hedgerows and meadows.
There are two main types of bluebell in Britain, namely the English and the Spanish, and the two are relatively easy to distinguish.
Native English bluebells or to use their scientific term Hyacinthoides non-scripta are more graceful in appearance and have their bells borne on just one side of the stem.
However, wild Spanish bluebells or Hyacinthoides hispanica have larger bells and bear flowers on all sides of the stem. More importantly and perhaps the easiest way of telling them apart is to smell the flowers. Only native English bluebells produce the enchanting and fragrant aroma that is associated with a bluebell wood.
Perhaps one of the most accessible locations to find bluebells in our county is Rivacre Country Park found just off junction 7 of the M53 close to Ellesmere Port.
Here a network of carefully tended paths and tracks allow visitors to immerse themselves within the extensive bluebell glades that carpet the slopes and hollows within a safe parkland. Local rangers are often on hand to answer questions about the woodland flowers.
Over in central Cheshire, Owly Wood on the outskirts of Weaverham lets visitors take a circular route along well-made paths down a relatively steep incline, then along the bank of the River Weaver before climbing back up and returning along the upper level.
In addition to the swathes of bluebells, if you time it right here, you can also discover the startlingly white wild garlic flowers or Allium ursinum (follow the pungent smell) that are prevalent here. Take a camera and get a great shot of the kids among these easily accessible wildflowers.
Private estate houses and gardens are also a good venue to find carpets of bluebells. As the flowers do not take kindly to being trampled upon, it is within these relatively protected mini-environments that some of the best examples can be seen.
Arley Hall, Gawsworth Old Hall and the National Trusts Dunham Massey are three fine examples.
At Arley Hall, the annual Bluebell Walks bring in quite a crowd. Here visitors are taken on a guided tour through the estates aptly named Big Wood where paths take you through the scenic delights of glade upon glade of these stunning wildflowers. This year the walks take place on April 24-25th and May 1st and 2nd.
At Dunham Massey near Altrincham, extensive work has been carried out over the last few years to create a Winter Garden. As the winter flowers begin to fail, bluebells replace them and provide a fine foreground meadow, while behind them standing resplendent through the trees, glimpses of the Manor House complete a picture postcard view.
As a landscape photographer, it is sometimes possible to obtain permission to shoot where others are generally not allowed to venture. This was indeed the case with our final image taken at Fryers Rough Wood on the outskirts of Acton Bridge.
To be allowed access to such areas is a privilege and allows access to wildflowers that have truly been allowed to thrive in a sheltered situation, which in turn provides an opportunity to photograph pristine specimens.
Assessing that the image would be best shot in the first light of day, I returned on a gloriously clear morning to capture the first raking rays of sunlight penetrating the fresh spring canopy, providing a magical scene before me.
Accentuated by the crisp morning air, I can only leave you to wonder at the lavishly fragrant odour that filled my nostrils on the morning in question. It is a memory that will stay with me for a long time.