Often associated with ancient woods, Bluebells are well adapted to life in woodlands. In the spring they flower before the surrounding trees come out in full leaf, completing their life cycle while light levels are high, growing quicker than the surrounding vegetation because they have an energy store in the form of a bulb.
The Latin name of the native bluebell is Hyacinthoides non–scripta and Britain’s Bluebells represent almost a third of the world’s population of this species. Bluebells seem to prefer slightly acidic soils and partial shade, and early in the growing season, they can be a dominant species in coppiced woods on light soils.
The native bluebells deep violet–blue flowers have a strong sweet scent, and the flower stems droop or nod distinctively to one side. It is thought that they were named by the romantic poets of the 19th century, who felt they symbolised solitude and regret. There are many folklore tales featuring Bluebells. In ancient times when forests were unwelcoming places, people believed that the bells rang out to summon fairies to their gatherings and a carpet of bluebells was thought to be a place associated with fairy enchantments. Alas, any human who heard a bluebell ring would soon die.
The Local Nature Reserve of Holyford Woods is located in a picturesque valley off the A3502 on the opposite side of the road to the Seaton Heights Petrol Station. To get to the wood, cross the A3052 and follow the footpath through the field down hill to the wood.
A sunken stream, called a goyle in Devon, runs through the heart of the woodland, feeding the Stafford Brook which runs into the Axe estuary at the nearby Colyford Common Local Nature Reserve. At the end of April and the beginning of May before the surrounding trees come out in full leaf, the magnificent sight of carpets of Bluebells in flower can be enjoyed by walkers who can follow a circular route of the wood.
Plants such as wood anemone grow in the woodland, indicating that Holyford woods has probably been a wooded area for several hundred years. Holyford Woods were awarded Local Nature Reserve status in May 2004.The Preservation Society formed to purchase the wood has now renamed itself the Holyford Woodland Trust, and East Devon District Council have taken ownership of the woodland leasing back the woodland to the Holyford Woodland Trust to manage the woods on the behalf of the local community and visitors.
Blackbury Camp is an Iron Age hill fort situated near Seaton, Devon. At the end of April and the beginning of May before the surrounding trees come out in full leaf, the magnificent sight of carpets of Bluebells in flower can be enjoyed by walkers who can walk round this Iron Age Fort.