With longer days and (slightly) warmer temperatures waking up the wild woodlands and forests of the UK, now is the time to start planning for a trip to see Britain’s native flora and fauna at its best. Here’s our list of the top places to see spring flowers in the wild, in the UK.
Priestley Wood, Suffolk
Some 130 flowering plants have been recorded in the woods, which have been designated a site of special scientific interest. Healthy populations of the twayblade orchid, the common spotted orchid, wild garlic, broad-leaved helleborine, herb Paris, primrose and the ever-popular bluebell co-exist happily. A healthy proportion of Suffolk’s nettle-leaved bellflowers and woodruffs can be found here, as can the single wild pear, one of only two in the county. Beware however – the small brown fruit are inedible.
Killaloo Wood, County Derry
The steep pathways through this valley woodland just outside the city of Derry are awash with bluebells, wood anemone, wood sorrel and wild garlic. The name Derry derives from the Gaelic word for oak grove, so no prizes for guessing the trees that you’ll see. Wild goats roam the valley while visitors should keep their ears open for the screaming call of the jay.
Carstramon Wood, Dumfries and Galloway
An incredible display of bluebells is a spectacular sight during May. That’s not all you can see however, with wood violet, primrose, honeysuckle and wood sorrel commonplace. Look closely amid the bracken and you’ll spot the climbing corydalis, which is the only food source for a rare weevil that lives here and which was once thought to be extinct.
Duncliffe Wood, Dorset
This wood near Shaftesbury is a special place thanks to diverse ground flora. In spring, you’ll find the woodland floor covered in a thick carpet of bluebells. Then there’s yellow archangel, early purple orchids and the long-flowering wood speedwell, whose tiny lilac flowers provide important early nectar for bees. At dusk, you should be able to catch a whiff of the musky scent of moschatel, also known as the Good Friday plant.
Lumb Brook Valley, Cheshire
A carpet of bluebells, lords-and-ladies, white wood anemones, sunshine-yellow lesser celandine and candy-pink dog rose, benefit from the additional light that reaches the woodland floor before the canopy fills in with newly opened leaves. Gradual removal of rhododendron have provided space for the flowers to breath.
Coed Cefn, Powys
Known locally as Bluebell Wood for obvious reasons! Wood violets appear in April and, as the bluebells start to fade, red campion – showing off their dark pink-red flowers – take over. The site of an Iron Age fort (look out for the mound in the centre of the wood) is visible too.
Big Wood, Cheshire
Located on the northern edge of Runcorn, this woodland is an oasis of calm in an urban stronghold.
The rampant rhododendron has been progressively thinned out in an effort to nurture the hundred or so other species of plants that carpet the glades, including bluebells, liverwort, bramble and bracken.
Heartwood Forest, Hertfordshire
Just 25 miles north of London, near St Albans, the Woodland Trust is busy with England’s largest new native forest. The site includes a number of small sections of ancient woodland, that are blanketed with bluebells in April.
Eridge Rocks, East Sussex
Rock climbers love these boulders, although some areas are off-limits thanks to the ferns, mosses, liverworts and lichens that grow in the nooks and fissures, notably the extremely rare Tunbridge filmy fern. Back in in 1086 at Domesday it was the most densely wooded area in England – and come spring you can enjoy primroses, green-winged orchids, sweet vernal grass, yellow archangel, wild garlic, common dog violet and cuckoo pink.
Vogrie Country Park, Midlothian
Just a stone’s throw south-east of Edinburgh, there are 6 miles of trails to explore in this lovely lush woodland that has a flourishing floor filled with blooms. Snowdrops are first to show, followed by bluebells.