Bluebells in the Downs
Did you know that the South Downs has more woodland than any other National Park in England or Wales? The soils in our ancient woodlands have been left undisturbed for hundreds of years, allowing great mobs of bluebells to thrive.
Bob Epsom, South Downs National Park Woodland Officer, sheds some light on the best spots to see bluebells within the National Park.
“Many people will have a favourite bluebell wood that they visit every year but I often prefer the ones you stumble across – spotted out of a car window or on longer cycling or walking routes,” says Bob.
“Car parks near bluebell woods are often jammed at this time of year. If possible please consider public transport, or travelling under your own steam. And remember to stick to the public rights of way so you leave them undamaged for everyone to enjoy!”
Great Wood, Stanmer Park
“This ancient wood is surprisingly close to the edge of Brighton.” Stanmer Park is a short walk from Falmer train station and a regular stop for buses running between Brighton & Lewes.
Butchers Wood, Hassocks
“An ancient oak wood, managed by the Woodland Trust, which sits behind the downs on the weald.”
Just a fifteen minute walk from Hassocks station, if you’re travelling north you can enjoy the bluebells on your right just before the train pulls in.
“There are many woods in this National Trust estate where you’ll enjoy a stunning display of bluebells but don’t forget to look out for other spring flowers too!”
The Compass 85/85A bus stops nearby, see the national trust website for details.
Stansted Park Estate
“Public footpaths and permissive paths surround and cross the woodlands here.”
“Another National Trust site where you can find plenty of bluebells, both in the formal gardens and surrounding woodland”
Buses connect the site with train stations at Winchester and Petersfield
“The Forestry Commission’s Forest of Bere includes woodland, open spaces, heathland, farmland and downland. Find bluebells under the mature beech trees of Upperford Copse.”
Cycle or walk there along the Meon Valley Way shared path.
“Bluebells are spectacular but don’t forget to look out for other spring woodland flowers whilst you’re there,” says Bob. “The early purple orchid Orchis mascula is one of the first to flower, you can recognise it by the dark spots on its leaves. You’ll likely smell the leaves of Ramsoms Allium ursinum, better known as wild garlic, before you see it. I also love wood-sorrel, Oxalis acetosella, with its delicate white flowers with distinctive veins.”