Bluebell bonanza! 11 beautiful local walks
Blooming 'eck! Bluebells are popping up in their thousands across Essex and here’s where to find the best displays of them on your next springtime stroll.
Spring is in the air and I’m feeling the need to head into the great outdoors, preferably somewhere with a glorious display of flowers and a decent cafe or pub nearby. Here are 11 of my favourite bluebell hotspots to visit right now – make it snappy ’cause they’ll soon be over!
Blakes Wood, Danbury
Visit this beautiful wood set in 100 acres of National Trust land near Chelmsford to see a carpet of bluebells this spring. Meander through the ancient oaks, listen out for nightingales and woodpeckers and, if you want to stretch your legs some more, follow the 2.5-mile trail to Danbury Common. When you’ve had your fill of flowers and foliage, hot foot it to The Anchor in Danbury for lunch in the pretty garden.
Shadwell Wood Nature Reserve, Saffron Waldon
This seven-hectare wood is a little pocket of Essex countryside that I’m almost reluctant to share. Come spring time it’s covered in bluebells, plus wood violets and even purple orchids. Essex Wildlife Trust oversees the ancient woodland and there are lots of different tracks to follow, making it a firm family favourite.
High Woods Country Park, Colchester
Colchester’s answer to Central Park is just about to burst into bloom, prime time to take the fam for a stroll through the woods and grasslands (or let the kids tire themselves out on the wooden playground while you sip a tea). Easter’s promising decent weather, so you might want to pack a picnic and eat by the lake too.
Norsey Wood, Basildon
Dating back at least 400 years, this very special 175-acre site has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, though I know it as a great place to walk the dog, chomp sandwiches in the picnic area and admire all the gorgeous blooms in spring.
Pound Wood, Benfleet
Overseen by Essex Wildlife Trust, this is a big site at 55 acres, with plenty of winding paths to explore. You’ll want your phone fully charged for the excursion as this scenic wood is perfect for Instagram #Bluebells shots.
Shut Heath Wood, Great Totham
A truly magical reserve that radiates colour in spring thanks to bluebells, wood anemone, dog violets and pale pink cuckooflowers bursting into life. What’s more, there’s a Disney-esque quality to the woodland glades in summer, when dragonflies flit around and glow worms light up the sky.
Hanningfield Reservoir Nature Discovery Park, Billericay
There are bluebell walks aplenty at this thirty-acre site of ancient woodland, which has lots of bonus stuff to entertain, from the 870-acre reservoir to a cafe on the water and guided nature trails.
Belhus Woods Country Park, Aveley
They’re so proud of their bluebell displays in this bucolic slice of rural Essex, the park’s ranger Tom has made a Youtube video about them! If you want to get in on the action, head to the visitor centre, pick up a map and then make your way to Whitehall or Running Water woods and prepare to be dazzled by nature. Make an afternoon of it as there are flower meadows, a playground, lakes and a cafe too.
Bedfords Park, Havering
A stunning nature reserve with views across east London and Kent where, along with carpets of bluebells, you might also spot red deer, woodpeckers and butterflies. Explore the mansion gardens, dotted with monkey puzzle, giant redwood and cedar trees, then hit the discovery centre’s cafe and gift shop.
Westhouse Wood, West Bergholt
Enjoy a Sunday stroll around the circular footpath in this small three-hectare site, which is home to ponds, ancient woodland and a swathe of bluebells each spring. It’s a peaceful pocket of countryside where oaks, ash and sweet chestnuts provide shade and, when you’ve completed your circuit and built up an appetite, there’s the option to tuck into a roast in the tranquil garden of the White Hart in West Bergholt.
Colne Nature Reserve, Wivenhoe
Spread between Wivenhoe town and Essex Uni on the north side of the River Colne, this nature reserve includes Wivenhoe Woods where the forest floor springs into life at this time of year with a colourful display of bluebells. If you’re taking kids along, be prepared for muddy knees and bums as the steep slope close to the town’s park is irresistible for climbing up and sliding down….finish the fun with ice creams at Masion Mollie.