Ashridge, a 5000 acre country estate and stately home in Hertfordshire, is one of the most popular places in the country for viewing bluebells.
The now serene estate has had it momentous times in history. Back in the mediæval period it was the location of Ashridge Priory, a college of the monastic order of Bonhommes, but was surrendered to Henry VIII and was eventually demolished during the reign of Elizabeth I. The famous landscape architect, Capability Brown, worked on the grounds here; the house was home to the “Canal Duke”, the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater; during the Second World War the house became a convalescent home for St Albans Hospital; and more recently it has appeared in a number of films including Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
In late April and May, the bluebells call in the crowds. Welcoming paths meander across the estate beneath patulous trees. The best area in which to enjoy the full impact of the bluebells is Dockey Wood, where the jazzy shimmer of blue contrasts with the bright green of the new beech leaves. But wandering and over-zealous admirers have caused much damage to these sensitive flowers. As a result much of the floral section is now confined behind woven branch barriers for their own protection.
Copyright Debbie Smyth, 4 May 2017