Just a few bluebells…

Portrait of a single bluebell

Portrait of a single bluebell

Our own woods, Alvecote Wood, is ancient woodland and we are blessed with a good show of bluebells during the spring. Here are just a few photos of the bluebells, which are all native English bluebells, taken over the past couple of weeks.

Bluebells and Stitchwort

Bluebells and Stitchwort

Bluebells and Stitchwort

Bluebells and Stitchwort

A rare Pink English bluebell

A rare Pink English bluebell

Bluebell on the forest floor

Bluebell on the forest floor

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Against a dark background, the bluebell stands bright

Against a dark background, the bluebell stands bright

Bluebells against a tree trunk

Bluebells against a tree trunk

Bluebells on a dull day

Bluebells on a dull day

Bluebells on a dull day

Bluebells on a dull day

Photography Workshops

Bluebells under trees on woodland floor

Bluebells on a bank at Hams Hall

I am very lucky to be able to run photography workshops both at our own woods and on behalf of the Tame Valley Wetlands Partnership. This pulls together my love of photography with my experience of adult education, and also allows me to visit some very special sites that I may not otherwise have access to.

Recently, I ran an Introduction to Photography workshop for Tame Valley Wetlands at Hams Hall. We were blessed with beautiful weather and an even more beautiful show of bluebells in a woodland that isn’t always accessible to the public. The bluebells were stunning this year, and grow in vast swathes underneath beech and birch trees. Beech is ideal for bluebells because it has a very closed canopy and therefore other undergrowth rarely thrives.

These are some of the photos from those woods on that day.

Bluebells under trees on woodland floor

Bluebell Bank

Bluebells under trees on woodland floor

Bluebells on a bank in the woods at Hams Hall

Bluebells under trees on woodland floor

Bluebell path

Bluebell path under the trees

Bluebell path under the trees

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Bluebells on a woodland floor

Bluebells

Bluebells under trees on woodland floor

Bluebells under trees on woodland floor

Bluebells under trees on woodland floor

Bluebells at Hams Hall

If you would like to attend a photography workshop at Alvecote Wood, our own woods, please see our Photography Workshops page.

The feeling of spring

Primroses

Primroses

Early Mining Bee on Willow Catkin

Early Mining Bee on Willow Catkin

Spring is here at last, and what a welcome thing it is. It started when I was cooped up in a hospital room for two weeks, watching the crocuses on the balcony bloom in their tubs, and the first small tortoiseshell butterfly flutter past my window. But I could not go out and enjoy it.

Coming out of hospital, the first thing I noticed was the wind on my face. Cold, for sure, but very welcome, and something that had been sorely missed.

They seemed almost imperceptible at first, the signs of Spring at the woods. It was very subtle. One week, you could see through the understorey, through the woods to the fields beyond. Then a few days later, you couldn’t. Just a few buds bursting here and there and the woods were transformed once again.

Birch Leaves and Catkins

Birch Leaves and Catkins

Daffodils

Daffodils

The daffodils came out in great numbers, followed by the lesser celandine, primroses and cowslips. This last weekend the first bluebell buds appeared, the blossom was profuse on the blackthorn, and the first cherry blossom also came into flower. Snakeshead fritillary are also in flower, and the smell of wild garlic hits you before you see the emerging leaves.

Cowslips

Cowslips

Ladybird on the edge of a leaf

Ladybird on the Edge

Within a few days, tiny green leaves were all over the birch trees, like little jewels, backlit by the sun. Catkins cover the willow trees, leaf buds bursting, early bees feasting on the pollen. Comma, small tortoiseshell, brimstone and peacock butterflies are everywhere in the sheltered parts of the meadow. Chiffchaffs are calling. The first blackcap is in song.

Surprisingly, for most birds are still building their nests, we even have a robin feeding her young, the nest precariously perched in an empty log bag thrown onto the top shelf of our log store.

Robin Feeding Young

Robin Feeding Young

This is the feeling of spring. The wind on your face. Some warmth in the sun. Frantic bird activity, flowers on the woodland floor, and the delicate sight of new leaves and catkins. A feeling magnified by my release from captivity. A glorious feeling. A joyful time of year.

Blackthorn

Blackthorn

Lesser Celandine

Lesser Celandine

Comma Butterfly

Comma Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly – shame about the background but lovely butterfly all the same.

Cherry Blossom

Cherry Blossom

Blossom

Blackthorn blossom

Blackthorn blossom

Blackthorn and other trees of the genus Prunus are usually the first trees to come into flower.  Blackthorn blossom is so delicate and pretty, dusting the bushes and hedgerows with a light frosting that looks like sugar, or light snow.  As well as looking beautiful, it is really important as a source of nectar for pollinating insects that are becoming more active at this time of year.  It also promises a harvest of sloes later on in the year – wonderful for including in hedgerow jams and jellies and for making sloe gin and vodka.

Blackthorn blossom

Blackthorn blossom

Blackthorn

Blackthorn blossom

Blackthorn Blossom

Blackthorn Blossom

Blackthorn Blossom

Blackthorn Blossom

It isn’t just blackthorn that we find in bloom at the woods.  Our orchard also has blossom on the plum trees.  Most pleasing of all is the blossom on our cherry trees.  We planted some wild cherry in Betty’s Wood in 2011.  Not many trees were included, just a few, to provide birds with wild cherries as food in autumn.  These trees have now grown large enough that they have blossomed for the first time.  This is really exciting for us – our little trees are now producing nectar for the bees and other pollinators, and later in the year will provide fruit for birds, small mammals and insects.  It is a sign that the young woodland is developing into a resource for wildlife.

Cherry blossom

Cherry blossom

Wild Cherry

Wild Cherry

Plum Blossom

Plum Blossom

Plum Blossom

Plum Blossom

Finally, not strictly blossom but lovely to see nonetheless, last year we had just one cowslip in Betty’s Wood.  I have now given up counting – there are at least 50 of them growing on the mounds by our ponds and in the grass nearby.  They are visited by the bees, as are the ribwort plantain which are just coming into flower, and provide another good source of nectar and pollen for the hive.

Ribwort Plantain

Ribwort Plantain

Cowslip

Cowslip

White snakes head fritillary

White snakes head fritillary

Development of Spring

Snakeshead Fritillary

Snakeshead Fritillary

Snakeshead Fritillary

Snakeshead Fritillary

Spring sneaks up on you.  There are a lot of very small changes that make very little difference and then everything explodes into action.  One day you can see through the woods, the next, there are so many leaves that you can’t.  One day there is just a little bit of growth in the grass, the next there seem to be cowslips and snakes head fritillaries all around.  One day you start to notice the leaves of lesser celandine and creeping buttercup, the next they are in flower.

Lesser Celandine

Lesser Celandine

Snakeshead Fritillary

Snakeshead Fritillary in bud

Comma on Willow

Comma butterfly feeding on willow catkins

Spring came alive this weekend.  Great spotted woodpeckers were calling and drumming.  We seem to have four chiffchaffs singing in the woods this year.  The yellowhammer are in song.  Buzzards are swooping over the clearings and meadows.  The tall grass is shaking and waving as the field voles dispute their rights to use the runs under the thatch.  Other butterflies are joining the brimstones on the wing – small tortoiseshell, peacock and comma.  The bees are coming alive in their hives and nests, returning home with little pollen sacs stuffed full.  The woods start to smell of wild garlic.  The skylark is in song all day – the song gets into your head, so much that when you return home, it remains with you, like an echo.

Cowslip

Cowslip

The First Buttercup

The First Buttercup

The coming of spring seems like a miracle every year, for all that now understand its genesis in the travel and alignment of the Earth around the Sun.  It is so very exciting.

Primrose in Monochrome

Primrose in Monochrome

Daffodils all in a row

Daffodils all in a row