Visiting bluebell woodlands responsibly

(c) Neil Aldridge

Every spring, many of our woodlands burst into colour with beautiful purple carpets of bluebells.

Bluebells flower around May each year to allow them to make the most of the sunlight that is still able to make it to the forest floor habitat, before the canopy becomes too thick.

The sight of a sun-dappled woodland with bluebells reaching as far as the eye can see is one many of us anticipate keenly each year.

But we must visit responsibly to protect these precious habitats and ensure the bluebells come back, year after year.

Here are our three top tips...

Stick to the paths

As tempting as it is to venture off the beaten track to an untouched oasis, please stick to the paths and follow any signage.

Bluebells are delicate and easily damaged, preventing the leaves from photosynthesizing and causing the plant to die back. It can take between five and seven years for a plant to become established, so a little wander off the main path can have a long-term impact.

Keep your dogs on a lead

It's not just humans - dogs too can snuffle and dig through the undergrowth, damaging precious habitats on the ground which many of our woodland species call home.

The same goes for picking up dog poo - please take it home, rather than kicking it into the undergrowth!

Visit at quiet times

Some of our reserves get busy at the weekends or in sunny weather - consider visiting at a quieter time (if you can) to allow you to safely socially distance from others on the main paths.

Did you know?


Carpets of native bluebells usually indicate that the wood they're found in is ancient woodland, as they're not very resilient to change and take a long time to establish. You might also see them appear along the line of an old hedge where trees once stood, even if they are no longer there.

Telling the difference between common and Spanish bluebells

The UK is home to two varieties of bluebell - our native common or English bluebell and the Spanish bluebell, which escaped from Victorian gardens and has since become naturalised. About half the population of the world's bluebells is found here!

The easiest way to tell the difference is by looking at the stem - common bluebells have drooping stems with all the flowers on one side. They have a sweet scent and deep indigo colour. Spanish bluebells have upright stems with paler violent flowers all around, and no scent.

Where to see bluebells in Yorkshire