The 'Battle of the Bluebell' and the challenges facing our woodlands

  • Video report by ITV News Meridian's Malcolm Shaw

The violet glow of a bluebell wood in full flower is a sight to behold.  One of our most keenly-awaited springtime spectacles. 

This year, chilly weather has delayed the blooms.  At Abbot's Wood in Sussex, they're only now starting to emerge and unfurl. 

Spanish bluebells

Found in ancient woodland, the traditional British Bluebells are under challenge from Spanish bluebells. They're taller, less fragrant and a paler shade of blue.

Escapees from our gardens, they've run rampant through the countryside. 

  • Dr Tony Whitbread, Sussex Wildlife Trust

Dr Tony Whitbread from Sussex Wildlife Trust says: "We did have this fear that even if the Spanish bluebells didn't take over themselves, they'd start hybridising with our native bluebells and we'd end up losing them".

He continued: "So actually, it's a bit of a good news story really in that our bluebells are a little safer than we first realised".

The battle of the Bluebell is a symbol of the challenges facing our woods, from climate change and habitat destruction, to the pressures we exert through recreation. 

A study just out by the Woodland Trust paints an alarming picture.  Only 7% of woods in good ecological condition.

  • Dr Hazel Jackson, Woodland Trust

Dr Hazel Jackson, of the Woodland Trust, says: "That little amount of woodland is in a position where it can provide for wildlife. So, lots of lovely habitat for our declining wildlife species.

She continued: "And, you know, I'm sure we've all experienced the joys of woodlands over the past year and during lockdown. So they're really important for our health and wellbeing.

The violet glow of a bluebell wood in full flower is a sight to behold. Credit: ITV News Meridian

Cuckoo's Boots, Witches Thimbles, Crow's Toes.  Its folk names point to our ancient association with the Bluebell.  It's short-lived beauty something to cherish, for as long as we can.