Where to see bluebells in Devon

PUBLISHED: 14:20 19 April 2016 | UPDATED: 15:58 21 April 2017

Bluebells at Emsworthy reserve. Photograph by Simon Williams

Bluebells at Emsworthy reserve. Photograph by Simon Williams


From late April and through May, special woodlands across the UK become a sea of lime greens and purplish blues. Bluebells that have been hidden as bulbs beneath the leaf litter all winter bloom into a carpet of flowers. Why don’t you get out and enjoy one near you this spring?

Ponies graze among bluebells at Emsworthy reserve. Photograph by Simon WilliamsPonies graze among bluebells at Emsworthy reserve. Photograph by Simon Williams

The bluebell is probably one of Britain’s best known wildflowers. Even those who are seemingly uninterested in our native flora can hardly fail to marvel at the beautiful sight of a spring woodland carpeted in blue.

We enjoy their wild beauty and sweet scent, as well as the hum of emerging insects which rely on them as a source of food. These bulbs prefer to be in shade during the summer and in areas where it is not too wet.

Bluebells are a protected species and the Wildlife Trusts work to conserve their habitats. Indeed, the carpets that we are accustomed to are usually a reasonable indicator of an ancient woodland. Unfortunately, though, they are under threat from an imposter – the Spanish bluebell!

The flowers are very similar, although the Spanish version has slightly paler flowers than our native species and the Spanish species has flowers all around the stem. These give it a more upright appearance than English bluebells, which have flowers arranged on one side of the stem, giving them a characteristic droop.

Everyone loves to see bluebells in Devon. Photograph by Simon WilliamsEveryone loves to see bluebells in Devon. Photograph by Simon Williams

Head out to the woodlands of Devon to see these beautiful blues in bloom at the following sites:

Andrew’s Wood – once an area of open, boggy moorland, Andrew’s Wood is now an established woodland haven for a wonderful collection of ferns, mosses and beautiful wildflowers.

Dunsford – riverside woodland with open glades, Dunsford provides one of the finest displays of spring daffodils in Britain.

Lady’s Wood – lies on a moderate north facing slope above the Glaze Brook, where the woodland canopy is dominated by oak and ash, while bluebells are abundant on the woodland floor in spring.

Halsdon – the attractions here include open hillside pasture edged by gorse bushes, paths through woodland, riverside meadows and the deserted ruins of a water-mill.

Scanniclift Copse – during spring the woodland floor is covered in bluebells and wild garlic.

Emsworthy Mire – in the late spring the field in front of the barn is dominated by bluebells. Because bluebells thrive in moist air, here in the South West they can often be found outside woodlands in hedges, coastal clifftops and on the open moor. Emsworthy Mire is an example of the latter and is one of the best bluebells sites in Devon.

Wherever you live there is a Wildlife Trust that covers your area. You can support their work by joining your local Wildlife Trust today. Visit wildlifetrusts.org to choose the Trust you would like to join.



Hot spots

Other woodland flowers to spot in spring:

Wood anemone – flowers March-May, found across the UK, lots grow in groups together.

Ramsons (wild garlic) – flowers April-June, found across the UK, easy to find by their garlic-y smell!

Wild daffodil – flowers March-April, native wild daffodils only grow in a few places in Wales and the west of England. Their much bigger, brighter garden cousins appear everywhere!

Greater stitchwort – flowers April-June, found across the UK, grows to around knee height.

Wood-sorrel – flowers April-May, found across the UK, look for the three heart-shaped leaves on each stem.

Primrose – flowers March-May, found across the UK, likes woodland clearings.

Dog-violet – flowers April-June, found across the UK, give them a sniff and you’ll find they have no scent.

Lords-and-ladies (cuckoo-pint) – flowers April-May and has a stalk of bright red berries in autumn, common across most of the UK, except parts of Scotland.



Fun facts

In folklore, bluebells are also known as ‘fairy flowers’. It was believed that fairies used bluebells to trap passersby, particularly small children!

25-49% of the world’s population of bluebells are found in the UK.

Bluebells can also be white. These rare individuals lack the pigment that gives bluebells their distinctive colour.

The bulbs produce an extremely sticky substance which was once used to stick the pages in books and the feathers on arrows.

The bluebell’s scientific name (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) comes from a Greek myth. When the Prince Hyacinthus died, the God Apollo’s tears spelled the word ‘alas’ on the petals of the hyacinth flower that sprang up from his blood. Non-scripta means unlettered and tells readers that the bluebell is a different species to the similar looking hyacinth.

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