Is there anything that says British woodlands more than a romantic sea of bluebells?
Bluebells in London can appear any time from late March to early May depending on the weather so it can be tricky to plan a bluebell walk. However, you can follow some of the places listed below (or the hashtag #bluebells) on social media, and when your feed fills with flowers you’ll know it’s bluebell time.
Bluebells are often a sign of ancient woodlands, offering the chance to combine your chilled-out bluebell ramble with a hands-on history lesson. But be careful – this is strictly a case of look (and sniff) but don’t touch. Picking them is a total no-no: bluebells are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, so uprooting them is an offence. Also they are incredibly delicate plants and easily damaged, taking several years to grow mature enough to flower.
To enjoy bluebells responsibly, please keep to the paths and don’t trample on them; we’d quite like to be able to send you all off for a bit of Insta-friendly soul-soothing next year too.
Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park
Closed for burials for over fifty years, Tower Hamlets was one of London’s ‘Magnificent Seven’ great Victorian cemeteries. It is now a historic site, park, nature reserve and general oasis of calm in the middle of East London. The Friends of the Park run a range of community and public events including foraging walks, and there are of course lovely displays of bluebells in spring.https://www.instagram.com/fothcp/
Lime Avenue Bank, between Millfield Lane and East Heath Road, is a shady, sun-dappled area of the historic heath which is carpeted with bluebells for a few glorious weeks every year. Hampstead Heath inspired The Chronicles of Narnia and it would be easy to lose yourself during an absolutely magical walk here during bluebell season.https://www.instagram.com/colhampsteadheath/
The Natural Area in Kew Gardens is 37 acres of untamed woodland bordering the Thames, gifted to Kew by Queen Victoria on the understanding that it remains a wild area (although there is a raised path to avoid damaging the bluebells). The area around Queen Charlotte’s cottage is particularly pretty, and another fascinating slice of royal history. It was never intended as a residence – it was basically an eighteenth-century royal tea room and kangaroo paddock. Yep, you read that right. Read more on their website.https://www.instagram.com/kewgardens/
This area of ancient woodland was originally part of the Forest of Middlesex and was mentioned in the Domesday Book. Highgate Wood usually puts on a spectacular show, with great swathes of blue transforming the woodland. The most bluebell-friendly areas are marked on a handy map, available online here; nearest entrances are Cranley Gate and Bridge Gate.
Epping Forest is home to Wanstead Park, known for its beautiful drifts of bluebells. If you’re a history buff, you’re in luck: in the early 1500s Wanstead Hall was a royal hunting lodge, and then owned by Elizabeth I’s (ahem) favourite minister, Robert Dudley, the 1st Earl of Leicester. After a string of titled owners it was acquired by Sir Josiah Child, Governor of the East India Company, whose family transformed the parkland into one of England’s most celebrated landscaped gardens.
As ancient woodlands go, this one’s a belter: parts of Oxleas Wood are believed to date back over 8,000 years, to prehistoric times. It’s also home to Severndroog Castle, a stunning eighteenth-century Gothic folly sitting atop Shooter’s Hill, which has a viewing platform offering a 360 degree view across London. The nearby Eltham Park North is another great place for bluebells so you can make a real day of it.
Isabella Plantation isn’t all about the super-showy azaleas and camelias; there is a path there called Bluebell Walk for a reason. As far as other things to do once the bluebell-gazing is done – Richmond Park has free-roaming herds of wild deer, residents of the park since 1637. How mad is that?https://www.instagram.com/theroyalparks/
If you do visit any of these, please tag us in your Insta posts – we’ll repost our favourites!