Heartwood’s magical bluebells
Only a shortish walk took us to the first pocket of ancient woodland (there are four in total) which has been there for more than 400 years. In the past it was regularly coppiced and logged and the wood was sent to fire the ovens of London.
Bluebells are a good indicator of pristine ancient woodland. When I visited, the beautiful bobbing heads were in full bloom and - walking deeper into the bluebell wood - I couldn’t help but think it looked like a natural cathedral; bending trees forming a wooded arch leading you down a path of blue flowers to an open space at the end. It’s the only part of the wood where visitors are asked to stay on the path to make sure the flowers aren’t trampled.
Heartwood has plenty of open land, new plantings, a giant picnic table, bridle paths and great views of the village – where I stopped to get some fortifying baked beans on toast before the walk.
There’s also a special area where kids are encouraged to build dens from some broken branches and Brian’s grandchildren, Jonty and Barnie, built one for me. It seemed a good idea to get into it after such effort. But these things aren’t built for middle aged men and, once in, it wasn’t entirely easy to get out!
Leaving the bluebell woods, I met Tim Wright and his two dogs, Molly and Archie. Tim is a retired telecoms engineer and found a new love of trees when he volunteered to help create Heartwood. He has helped build a living willow tunnel for children to run through and recommended I go to an area of Heartwood called High Trees - where, he said, you hardly see anybody.
Tim and Brian are just two of thousands of volunteers who have helped transform this landscape. It’s what makes Heartwood very special - a piece of nature not just shaped by locals but nurtured by them - a testament to the possible.
It’s a great place to visit and although most of the people I saw didn’t move much beyond the bluebell woods, about a 10 minute walk from the car park, this is a huge area in which you can meander, climb trees, and fill your lungs with the fresh air of spring and summer. I couldn’t recommend it more.
Listen to our first podcast!
Do have a listen to the Woodland Walks podcast if you want to hear Brian’s grandchildren building a den and me getting stuck in it, as well as a guide to the flora and fauna of Heartwood itself.
Please subscribe to the podcast if you want to hear more adventures in the woodlands of the UK and don’t forget to rate us or leave a review!
You can listen to the debut podcast on Apple podcast and iTunes or on Soundcloud.
I am keen to hear from you as well – so if you have a favourite woodland walk, do tell me about it in a short email or if you can, make a 5 minute or so recording of your own walk and we may feature your woodland walk in a future podcast.
I’ll be off on another woodland walk next month. Hope you can join me.