Beautiful Britain: A Blanket of Bluebells

England is home to some of the oldest wild bluebell woods in the world, and the British get pretty excited about seeing “a blanket of bluebells.” After walking through the woods of Ashridge Estate earlier this May, I see what they mean — it’s a wonderful sight, just a layer of purplish blue spread out as far as you can see, amongst the deadwood of the forest floor and the green trees glowing in the springtime sunlight.


The English bluebell is very delicate, and if you walk on some, the crumpled leaves can’t rally and photosynthesize anymore, so the flowers die, and it can take years for them to grow back. It’s actually illegal to intentionally disturb or uproot bluebells in the United Kingdom. Since about half the world’s bluebells are found here, you can see why they’re so eager to protect the fragile flower.

The walk from Tring train station to the visitor center at Ashridge Estate isn’t complicated, but it’s also not very well signed, so we took a slight detour down one right-of-way path along a field of something green, rather than following the path along a different field, but that just meant we saw something a little different on our walk back to the train station.

The best part about all of this was that we’d been told the bluebells were past their peak and there probably wouldn’t be much to see — even the woman at the visitor center sounded doubtful that the woods were looking so good. All I can say to that is, this has got to be the most beautiful decline I’ve ever seen. The season is short, but if you’re able to get to a British wood in late April/early May, go looking for a blanket of bluebells — it’s worth all the superlatives attached to it.


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Living in London Adventures

Happy spring, dearest fellow travelers. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, here’s to longer days and budding greenery all around. Spring came very early for me this year, because England has a more moderate climate than the American Midwest, so in late February temperatures climbed up, trees started putting out little hopeful leaves, and daffodils cropped up en masse in parks and gardens across London. Of course, the flip side of a temperate climate means that now it’s still about that same temperature instead of getting any warmer, and in a few months I’ll be wondering if summer is a thing that actually happens here. But for now, spring!

I’ll be living in London for at least a year, and I’m going to take advantage of that fact as much as I can. Every month, I’m going to at least two new places in London I’ve never been before. Also, every month I’m going to at least one new place outside of London I’ve never been before. I will also try to get to some other European locations as well.

I’ve been busy with a lot of freelance projects the last few months, which is why the writing part of Stowaway has been so light. But now I’ve finished some of those and hope to get back into the swing of things with writing up my travels. I know I still have a few places from Europe 2013 (!) to cover, and much of South America 2014, and of course what I’ve been up to while in England.

So there’s much to do and time enough to do it in. Please continue to comment, and share on Facebook and Twitter (I’m @LisaStowaway). And if you’re coming through London, let me know–we can meet for a pint or a cup of tea.

Daffodils near my flat in London

Daffodils near my flat in London