Being a native wildflower, bluebells can pop up almost anywhere. But if it's lilac-hued carpets of blooms you're after this spring, read on for some of our favourite places to see masses of bluebells in London and nearby.
When is bluebell season in London?
April into May is peak bluebell season, though as is always the way these things, exact dates depend on factors such as the weather. Once they're out, you've got a fortnight or so to see them at their finest.
Can I pick bluebells?
No, please don't. Native English bluebells are a protected species, meaning it's prohibited to dig up or remove a plant or bulb from the countryside.
Be careful not to trample on them either — sticking to footpaths is best. Once trampled, a bluebell plant can take four-six years to recover and flower again. The National Trust offers advice on how to admire the flowers without damaging them, as well as how to photograph them.
Bluebells in Richmond Park
Although better known for its azaleas, Richmond Park's Isabella Plantation has a decent bluebell population too — in fact, one of the footpaths is named Bluebell Walk. Head for the wilder fringes of the managed garden to get the best glimpses.
Bluebells in Highgate Wood
Up in north London, the ancient woodland of Highgate Wood is one of your best options for a spot of bluebell bothering — so much so that City of London Corporation, which manages the space, has marked the bluebell areas on its official map of the wood. Head for the north corner of the park, and enter via the Cranley Gate or Bridge Gate to be closest to the action
Bluebells in Oxleas Wood, Eltham
The ancient woodland of Oxleas Wood is home to many surprises, not least a whopping great castle. But in late spring, bluebells take centre stage, as the forest is carpeted in them. The area is on the Green Chain Walk, so can be incorporated into a wider spring exploration of the area, or enjoyed alone (or as part of a visit to the aforementioned castle). London Wildlife Trust sometimes runs bluebell walks at Oxleas Wood too.
Bluebells in Wanstead Park
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Bark footpaths are laid among the trees, making it easy to wander past the bluebells and photograph them without the risk of trampling. Wanstead Wildlife has more information on the measures being taken to care for and cultivate the bluebells.
Bluebells at Hole Park Gardens, Kent
A bit further afield, the 15-acre Hole Park Garden in Kent is known for having one of the best bluebell displays in the south-east. Keep an eye on their bluebell barometer — which appears on the site every year in early April — to check on the progress of this year's carpet of bluebells. Dogs on leads are welcome.
Bluebells at Emmetts Garden, Kent
National Trust property Emmetts Garden, just a spit from the London-Kent border, has thousands of bluebells blanketing a hillside, to the extent that it's been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Rhododendrons, tulips and daffodils are also prevalent at Emmetts, making it a vibrant spot for a spring day out, though the car park and cafe tend to get busy at weekend. Nearby Chartwell, former home of Winston Churchill, also performs well on the bluebell front. Visits to both properties must be booked in advance.
Bluebells at Riverhill Himalayan Gardens, Sevenoaks, Kent
The main reason for visiting this hillside garden is the views from the top (and the intense calf workout on the way up). But for a couple of weeks each year, bluebells supplant the views.
The sloped woodland is home to thousands of them — dappled with sunlight as it streams through the tree canopy overhead. Footpaths wend their way through the woodland, meaning you can get up close to the bluebells without stepping off the paths. One more thing; this particular woodland is home to a part-time yeti* — you've been warned.
A bluebell-inspired craft fair usually runs at the same time as the bluebell festival, with artworks, homewares and gifts on a bluebell theme.
(*Weekends and school holidays only)
Bluebells at Sheffield Park and Garden, East Sussex
Sheffield Park and Garden is another National Trust property replete with bluebells in the spring. The sizeable estate has several bluebell clusters, in the manicured gardens, growing wild in the woods, and out in the East Park, where dog walkers are welcome.
London's cemeteries and cemetery parks are also bluebell hotspots. Though they don't appear in the same numbers as they do at other places on this list, they do spring up prettily among the gravestones and tombs. Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park is a particular favourite with bluebell hunters. National Trust properties are also replete with bluebells.