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A stroll through this blue heaven

Friday 7 May 2010

Jaded from months of political turmoil, our countryside commentator John Sheard seeks some peace and quiet whilst the votes are being counted, and searches for the perfect stress relief: a stroll amongst the bluebells

BY the time you see this, dear reader, the country will have some idea – hopefully – if we have a government. I write this just before going out to vote but the result in my Yorkshire Dales constituency will not be revealed until midday on Friday. So how to pass the next 24 hours or so?

I could, of course, sit around before the television set, anxiously watching the results come in. I could go fishing but my nearest stretch of the River Aire is sitting under a cloak of cold rain and a biting northerly wind. Not the sort of weather to get the olives rising and the trout feeding.

Blue Heaven

Or could I do something truly relaxing, something far away from the lies and betrayals of politics; something that takes me back to the days of my youth; indeed, something that has taken generations of English men and women, boys and girls, away from worldly care and allowed them to bask in the prospect of a fresh new summer.

Shall I go, therefore, for a stroll in Bluebell Wood?

Time was, in the days of my youth just after the dinosaurs had parted this planet, when ever village community, and most of the towns too, had their own bluebell paradise. Thousands of them are now long gone, buried under the houses of new estates or concrete for motorways.

In those days, too, you could guarantee that the bluebells would be in full bloom, carpeting acres of ancient woodland in electric blue, in the first weeks of May here in the North Country. This year even that is in doubt after the coldest winter for at least 30 years has produced a spring when daffodils and cherry blossom are out the same time.

Fortunately, for those who have to travel long distance to witness this rite of spring, modern technology is on hand, thanks to one of my favourite charities, the Woodland Trust, which manages a thousand expanses of ancient woodland in England, including Skipton Woods here in the Yorkshire Dales.

The shimmering sea of blue presented is one of nature’s most magical sights...

The trust campaigns not only to protect woods but also tries to persuade more people to visit them – particularly city folk – as a way of relieving the stress and strains of modern life. And to this end, it is a major user of modern technology including a superb website. And it has just produced a special demonstration to show people the location of their nearest bluebell wood.

Fran Hitchinson conservation advisor to the Woodland Trust explains: “Bluebell carpets are a timeless feature of our ancient woods and certainly worth seeing. The shimmering sea of blue presented is one of nature’s most magical sights and, for many people, is one of the most enduring symbols of springtime and the coming to life of the countryside.

“The bluebell is one of many species strongly associated with ancient woods, meaning that if you are looking at seas of woodland bluebells it’s likely that the woodland you are in is also ancient.

“Ancient woods are irreplaceable, sites which have been continuously wooded since at least 1600AD. They are the UK’s equivalent of the rainforest, home to more species than any other habitat and it’s times like this that we are reminded of how precious they are.

“”Ancient woodland and its precious bluebells that shelter within need protecting, with some of the biggest threats to them being climate change and the destruction and fragmentation of woodland habitats.

“Indeed, our bluebells have international importance as we are believed to have a large proportion of the entire world population of the flower.”

I cannot think of a better way of tossing aside the arid, often pointless and sometimes downright mendacious twaddle of the past few months than taking a walk amongst one of Mother Nature’s grandest creations. To find your way to this blue heaven, see www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/bluebells

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