Blue sky

At last!  A month away from midsummer, finally we enjoy a day of clear blue sky and warm sunshine.  This is the ‘hidden land’ behind Otterspool Promenade this afternoon: just to record for posterity how long we waited this year for spring to properly arrive.

Don’t you have a word to show what may be done
Have you never heard a way to find the sun
Tell me all that you may know
Show me what you have to show
Won’t you come and say
If you know the way to blue?

The other day, with a cold wind whipping occasional showers of hail and rain in from the north, we paid a visit to Bluebell Cottage Nursery, near Dutton in Cheshire.  The nursery has its own bluebell wood, but nearby is Dutton Park, with another wood carpeted with bluebells.  The ancient woodland is managed by the Woodland Trust and adjoins water meadows alongside the the Weaver Navigation and Dutton Locks.  It’s a haven for the flowers and wildlife that thrive in ponds that are the remnants of the original course of the River Weaver, before it was re-routed for better navigation for transportation of Cheshire salt to Liverpool and Manchester during the 18th century.  That’s where I took these photos, illuminated by occasional shafts of sunshine between the clouds.

Bluebell wood 2

Have you seen the land living by the breeze
Can you understand a light among the trees
Tell me all that you may know
Show me what you have to show
Tell us all today
If you know the way to blue?

Plantwatch in today’s Guardian, notes that bluebells have flowered late this year – some four or five weeks later than usual – as well as observing that where you find bluebells, you often find wild garlic, as we did in this Cheshire wood.

Wild garlic

This is the Guardian Plantwatch article:

A great blue wave has spread across the country in one of our greatest natural spectacles, as carpets of bluebells have come into flower. But the bluebells were some four or five weeks later this spring than last year, and the cold spring made their appearance more patchy than usual. Britain has around half the world’s population of bluebells, and they are also a truly national plant, growing from Land’s End to the northern tip of Scotland. They are most at home in ancient woodlands, and in Tudor times their bulbs were made into a starchy glue used for binding books and stiffening ruffs.

The native bluebell flower is a rich blue colour, scented and hung on an arched stalk, but the plant is battling against an alien imposter. The Spanish bluebell is paler, scentless and has an upright flower stalk, and this import has cross-pollinated with the native flower to produce an extremely aggressive hybrid. The hybrid first appeared in the wild in 1963 and has spread rapidly, and now many of the bluebells found in gardens, urban areas and increasingly in woodlands are the hybrid bluebell.

Another sensation to enjoy now in many bluebell woodlands is the heady scent of garlic. This is the smell of wild garlic, which is now festooned with clusters of white star-shaped flowers shining bright against their glossy dark green leaves. By coincidence, wild garlic is a relative of bluebells, and they both belong to the lily family.

Bluebell wood 1

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