Save our bluebells – operation protect and respect at Heartwood Forest
The emergence of bluebells each Spring is a hotly anticipated natural event. The array of bluebells which carpets many of our woodlands in a vibrant azure – purple hue is a breathtakingly beautiful sight and an accompanying subtle fragrance hangs in the air. The flash of a bluebell wood as you drive past in a car, or a glimpse of bluebells during a woodland walk lifts the spirits, it reminds us that brighter, sunnier days are coming and that good times are just around the corner.
Visitors are warmly welcomed onto our estate to come and take in this wildlife spectacle. We want to be able to instil a sense of wonder in people and hope that memories of woodland visits stick with them, so they feel a sense of responsibility to our woodlands and natural habitats in the future.
Langley Wood is an example of a stunning bluebell wood. It is the largest of three ancient woodlands nestled within Heartwood Forest, which can be found on the outskirts of St Albans. Every year we see an increase in visitors to the site, with people travelling from far and wide to get a glimpse of the vibrant blue flora.
Whilst we take in the wonderful sights we need to be mindful of our behaviours, as any damage through trampling and picking leads to a lengthy recovery and regeneration time of 5 years. Sadly, Langley Wood has lost over an acre of bluebells, which is an area the equivalent to over half the size of Wembley football pitch. Further to this, bluebells are susceptible to trampling all year round, not just when they are flowering. Here is where our brilliant team of volunteers step in to help!
Every year we run a ‘Save Our Bluebells’ (SOB) campaign at Heartwood Forest, to encourage positive behaviours on site. Asking visitors and their four-legged friends to stick to waymarked paths and refraining from picking the bluebells are all communicated to visitors in a friendly way. We are supported by a great team of volunteers who help us by keeping an eye on the bluebells and engaging with members of the public, through conversations, leaflets and other resources.
With the COVID pandemic, this year saw a slightly different approach to our ‘Save our Bluebells” campaign and activity on site took place in a COVID safe way. Our volunteers carried out regular patrols of the woods, ensuring that visitors stuck to paths and did not pick any flowers. They were happy to answer any questions the visitors had – all done following social distancing guidelines.
“A massive thank you to all the volunteers at Heartwood for their hard work and dedication to the Woodland Trust. Being our eyes and ears on the ground at Heartwood, especially over the last few months during the bluebell season, is invaluable to us in the estates team and cannot be understated.” Luke Shenton (Site Manager – Hertfordshire) and Jessica Vagg (Assistant Site Manager – Hertfordshire and Essex)
As ever, we truly appreciate the time and commitment our volunteers have given to supporting this campaign, thank you all so much!
Amanda Brookes (VDO for Central England)
Images by Judith Parry