The Allusive Dorset Bluebells

Updated: May 9, 2021

We are about a week in to one of the wonderous and much loved events that the Dorset countryside befits us all. This is the awakening slumber of the ancient bluebell woods. For most photographers, including me, this event can be quite the pinnacle of the year and is greatly anticipated with baited breath as we wait for frosts to clear, the temperature to rise and life starting to return to our ancient woodlands.

I have lived in Dorset for many years and I have been incredibly lucky as an ex horse rider to have experienced the Dorset countryside in a unique way. If I had known at the time how lucky I was, I would have perhaps paid more attention and perhaps done a little bit more discovering! However, hindsight is a wonderful thing, as they say! It is however, through these horse-rides that I was lucky enough to encounter bluebell woods along my travels. I didn’t realise how lucky I was, until I decided to take my photography a little more seriously and joined some photography groups. It was within these groups that I discovered how my local knowledge was actually priceless gold. Knowledge, that I perhaps took for granted and I had absolutely no idea what the price of it was. It astounded me to discover that bluebell wood locations were being kept secret by some. In a way, policing who was to be in the know and who was not.

First rule of Bluebell club, is to not speak about Bluebell club!

One of the main reasons given for not giving away locations was that if the secret location were to be given away, everybody would then visit them and they would be destroyed like the bluebells at Pamphill, Wimborne. These stunning bluebells have now been taped off and these are the bluebells that are most widely known. I haven't actually seen them. Being slightly anti-social I never like to be in the vicinity of many people so going to that location would be a last resort for me. However, I digress. To stop people from trampling over the bluebells the National Trust have taped them off for several years now. Making it impossible to follow anything else other the path.

I was genuinely shocked at this kind of policing by photographers and I wondered why photographers would deny another photographer of being able to have a chance of taking a similar shot. My mind raced and my first thought was that perhaps it was due to exclusivity. If I had a great shot of somewhere where I had not seen anybody else photograph ...would I share it with everybody so they could do it better than me and sell a million prints? I did have to think long and hard about that one. However, at the end of the day I have to trust in my own ability and to know that obviously mine is best! So there would be no need to hide the location!

With exclusivity praying on my mind, it wandered over to why is it bad if everybody knew. I have actually scoured many threads where the location has been kept secret to find only one thread where an informed and esteemed gentleman explained why it was important to protect bluebells.

If the leaves of the bluebells are trampled, due to their delicate nature they cannot grow back or repair, so the whole plant dies due to it not being able to photosynthesize.

Even worse, if the flower gets damaged the plant may never grow back at all! Yikes!! So this is why it is so important to look after these delicate 300 year old plants.

It can also take from seed to flower 5-7 years to grow!

I began to understand why it was so important to make sure you stick to paths and you don’t wonder off and make your own small little path. No matter how small and teensy you make it. It could stay there for up to 5-7 years!! Imagine if everybody did that?Imagine if people like portrait photographers took people to have their photographs taken in the middle of them? And here we find the issue and why I believe photographers keep their woods an absolute secret.

It did not take me long with a little bit of Googling to find several local portrait photographers who have all used the woods as a backdrop for photos or immersed their subject in them. This is not to mention the amount of people who have taken photos of their children in them. Why not? If I was unaware of the perils, more than likely they were to.

I feel that the answer to the allusive bluebell is not secret policing, but education. If people knew how serious it is to trample bluebells and to stick to the paths, then they may be more inclined to do it. Rather being told not to, with no explanation or even worse being told they will not be given any location, which I can’t help but feel becomes very elitist. They are there for everybody to enjoy. We have been through a traumatic event as a country. Holding stunning and beautiful locations secret to oneself I can’t help but feel is not the direction we should be going in. We just need to know how to respect our beautiful bluebells and look after them so we can all enjoy them for another 300 years.

So to this vain, here are the locations of the Bluebell woods that I have visited. Some photos are not from this year, but previous years. So please bear this in mind when visiting as they may have changed. I have also added car park access and wheelchair accessibility. I have recently become reliant on a wheelchair and I was absolutely distraught at the thought that I might miss the bluebells this year. So I have been testing out locations that I thought I might have a fair chance of gaining access to. Hope this helps.

Broadley Wood, Blandford Forum

What3Word Location: Rejoined.Pets.Redeeming

Wheelchair Access: Yes

Car Park: Yes

Beautiful wood with not just bluebells, but a stunning array of white anemones as well. I loved the different colours which was a nice and refreshing perspective on the standard blue carpet. At the what3word location I have given, you can access the wood with a wheelchair. You do need somebody able bodied to push you and I did have to help occasionally by manually turning my wheels. However, I made it in! The bluebells are five minutes from the what3word location on the right.

Dunscliffe Woods, Shaftesbury

What3Word Location: Plant.Whoever.Wonderful

Wheelchair Access: Yes

Car Park: Yes

Lovely location, the car park is free. I would have said about a ten minute walk into the woods from the car park, a gentle incline, so if you are in a wheelchair you will need somebody for to push you and the terrain is not easy to get into the woods due to the roots. However, it can be done by a bit of perseverance. Stunning woods, saw several butterflies. This location was busy, but not too frantic, nice flow of people.

Blandford Forest, Turnworth

What3Word Location: knee.minimums.downhill

Wheelchair Access: No

Car Park: Yes

These bluebells make you work for it! They are nowhere near the car park (of which there are three free ones). All of which are at least a 30 minute walk away from the bluebells. However it is a fabulous walk, the scenery is beautiful and you will not regret making the journey. They are not fully formed yet here, they are still in clumps, however in a couple of years, I reckon these will be large carpets of blue. Sadly no wheelchair access.

Norton Wood, Durweston

What3Word Location: Catchers.Smelters.Nothing

Wheelchair Access: Yes (ish)

Car Park: Yes

This Wood is absolutely amazing, it’s popular, bumped into several different families within 30 minutes. They mostly stuck to the track - so if you wanted to go off piste then you probably wouldn’t bump into anybody. In the car park there are three tracks. The bluebells are up the track that is on the left of the entrance. You will need a very fit person to push you up the track - it’s steep! If you have electric - then you are super lucky!! It’s about a five minute slog to get some bluebells but once you are there you are not disappointed by the beech. Please do stick to the track. The bluebells are clearly establishing themselves as there are still only pockets of them, but what a sight to behold! Definitely worth that push to get to them.

Video so you can feel the sense of tranquility in amongst the Bluebells

Delcombe Wood, North Dorset

Coordinates: (50.84, -2.29)

Wheelchair Access: No

Car Park: No

This wood is quite a sight to behold. It’s breathtaking. The smell of garlic and bluebells is just something else. Sadly you have to watch it all from the road as the whole of Delcombe Wood is private. There is no public right of way. They do open up a trail, to the public however that is at their discretion, which we are lucky they do at all. I did see some people hop over the wall to take pictures, which is totally unnecessary. You don’t have to, as you can see from above, you can take perfectly fine pictures from the road. There is no wheelchair access, but I took this from the car. So please adhere to access rights with this one. It’s stunning, but don’t trespass to get that shot!

Hooke Park, Beaminster

Coordinates: (50.78, -2.66)

Wheelchair Access: Yes

Car Park: No

The trees are stunning here and very tall! There is wheelchair access, but like all places be prepared for a bit of a push! Lovely place.

I still have more investigating to do. So I will be updating this blog. So please feel free to check back. In the meantime I leave you with my video. Yes we stuck to the path and promise - no bluebells were harmed. We made sure we were very careful! Hope you enjoy.

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