Each year in May our ancient native deciduous woodland is transformed into something truly magical. The strappy thin green leaves that have carpeted the woodland floor since the end of winter suddenly start to show colour and, within a few days, the whole woodland is transformed into a sea of blue. The bluebells are in bloom.
While many of the ancient woodlands around the country and in North Devon have been cleared, we are pleased that our family has maintained Stone Woods in their pristine form so that we can enjoy them today. There have been challenges. For example, before the Great War a mining company tried to sink shafts in the wood to mine “Bideford Black” a soft anthracite used to produce pigment. Later when timber was in short supply and expensive, many local farmers cleared their woodland to raise funds and provide themselves with extra grazing land. But our woodland at Stone Farm and at Nethercott and Grabbishaw Farms survived…
Now, there are hundreds of thousands of bluebells flowering across our woods, and they make a truly magnificent sight each May.
The common bluebell or native British bluebell (hyacinthoides non-scripts) has narrow strappy leaves and drooping purple blue flowers which give off a wonderful scent. They are also known, fancifully, as “fairy flowers” or wild hyacinths. Very occasionally there will be a white bluebell amongst them! Significantly different from its continental cousin, the Spanish Bluebell, which was introduced extensively by Victorian horticulturalists, our native bluebell is now protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981. Some 50% of the worldwide population of these beautiful flowers now grow in the United Kingdom.
But for us it is that wonderful sight of swathes of flowering, scented bluebells cascading across our ancient woodland. A magical transformation each Spring that occurs year after year with the turn of the seasons.