Posted: Thursday 9th May 2019
Its bluebell season at Oxhey Woods Local Nature Reserve and visitors to the site in April and May can find this quintessentially English woodland flower carpeting the floor of hazel coppice with a vivid blue haze.
The best display can be found in the central compartment, however pockets of bluebells can be found throughout the site. The delicate hyacinth scent of this colourful display, which is particularly noticeable on warm sunny days, is unique to the native bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta).
The non-native Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica), a garden escape infiltrating many UK woodlands, is scentless and can also be distinguished by its blue pollen and robust flowers. The native species, which makes up the majority the Oxhey Woods bluebell population, has creamy white pollen and a delicate drooping bell shaped flower.
The UK is estimated to hold between a third to half of the global population of the native bluebell, and ancient woodland sites such as Oxhey Woods are vital for their survival. Bluebells struggle to colonise new sites and therefore it is essential to their survival to protect and care for existing populations. Other plant species whose survival is closely tied to the preservation of ancient woodland, and which can be found in Oxhey Woods, are midland hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata) and wild service tree (Sorbus torminalis).
Whilst out bluebell spotting this spring, keep a look out for early emerging butterflies such as orange-tip and brimstone. TRDC has invested in improving all year access to Oxhey Woods by installing 100s of metres of new path surface and associated drainage over the last two years. Maydencroft Ltd. completed surfacing of the Long Loop last year, as well as making repairs to the easy access trail.
There are now options for long and short walking routes on surfaced paths as well as a myriad of natural trails throughout the woodland. Maintaining access will always be a challenge due to the natural hydrology of the site, however significant improvements have been achieved over the last few years.