Calm Under The Canopy - The Joy Of Woodlands In Spring
Royd House Wood, Farnley Tyas
Now is the optimal time to get out to explore the bluebell-carpeted woodlands we are so lucky to enjoy here in Yorkshire. Thankfully, many of these little pockets of beauty can be found very close to our urban settlements and therefore accessible on foot from our homes, whilst the rules of lockdown still apply.
Bluebells grow well under deciduous trees, mainly native beech trees. Woodlands are marked on the OS Maps as either coniferous, or non-coniferous (consult the key to identify the correct symbol) and whilst many appear as mixed woodlands, the non-coniferous woodlands are the best bet for bluebells.
It’s illegal to dig up or damage wild bluebells and their bulbs, however they can be bought and planted in gardens. Make sure to buy the native English Bluebell, however, rather than Spanish Bluebells as these spread very easily, and can hybridise with native English bluebells, which threatens the English variant. The English bluebell also spreads readily and is resistant to weed killer; so the best way to keep them in check once established is to lift the bulbs whilst the plants are in leaf and replace where wanted, otherwise the RHS advises to keep the bulbs in plastic sacks for a year before composting, as they can still flourish in a compost heap (much like potatoes!).
There are numerous woodlands renowned for their display of bluebells in April and May throughout Yorkshire. I had been looking forward to my first visit to Middleton Woods, located just north of Ilkley town centre (OS Map Explorer 297) with numerous pathways to explore throughout. From Ilkley you can also follow the Dales Way along the bank of the River Wharfe towards Addingham, which the map suggests are also lined with woodlands likely to be displaying the mesmerising cobalt hues of bluebells.
Wisteria in flower
Elsewhere in Calderdale, West Yorkshire, the neighbouring Cromwell Wood and Elland Park Wood (HD6 2RG – approx. postcode only) close to Brighouse (OS Map Explorer 288) are beautiful. The route of the Calderdale Way from Shibden Dale (Halifax) to Brighouse itself passes through woodland between Shelf and Norwood Green as well as fields abundant with wildflowers later in May. Many of the buildings along the route are adorned with the stunning yellow and lilac flowers of laburnum and wisteria into June.
Grass Woods, close to Grassington (Craven, North Yorkshire, OS Map OL2) is protected by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and a place for bluebells, wild garlic and yellow pimpernels. An easy route leaves Grassington by way of Cove Lane, meeting the woodland where a huge variety of pathways await. A return along the river Wharfe comes highly recommended.
Residents of the Holme Valley, Huddersfield, can enjoy Round Wood (just off the A616 between Thongsbridge and Thurstonland) which although small can be incorporated into a longer walk (the riverside path towards Honley is easy underfoot and good for those with children in tow). Royd House Wood can be enjoyed from Castle Hill/Victoria Tower as part of an easy 3-mile loop (follow the Holme Valley Circular Walk across the valley towards Farnley Tyas, returning via the very well-trodden path through fields that mirrors the Honley Road). Spring Wood, accessible from both Honley and Netherton, is a delight, and a little to the east, walkers from Meltham can use the well way marked Meltham Way into the woodland back towards Honley.
This springtime, we may not all be able to experience the sylvan serenity of bluebell-carpeted forests. That said, woodlands have plenty to offer walkers and families throughout the year, and we can hope that when the bluebells carpets are replaced with the golden tones of autumnal fallen leaves; we will all be through the worst of this current crisis and able to get out to appreciate these wonderful habitats first hand.