We are now nearing the peak of bluebell beauty here in East Sussex. Seems like 2016 could be a vintage year for these gorgeous, perfectly formed, bell shaped flowers. In my neck of the woods (Danehill) dazzling blue carpets have sprung up all over, often interspersed with white wood anemones, a floral star in its own right but even better when set against the rich, purple blue of its taller friend.
Walking in this area is rewarding at any time of year but is especially joyful when you stumble across a particularly breathtaking bluebell glade. If you like your sightings guaranteed, Heaven Farm, Danehill is a good place to head for – I hate that they charge to walk through their woodland but, in fairness, it is a very well maintained and accessible nature trail. There’s also the bonus of the option of a traditional sussex cream tea served in the lovely barn or gardens afterwards and the chance to browse in the delightful farm shops.
If you prefer more unstructured rambles, there’s plenty of potential for bluebell sightings on endless woodland walks on Ashdown Forest and in the Sheffield Park area. The latter is a particularly good bet if you wanted to combine a walk with a ride on the steam trains of the famous Bluebell Railway. Running 11 miles between Sheffield Park and East Grinstead, with stops at Horsted Keynes and Kingscote, you can choo choo your way through prime bluebell terrain. At this time of year they even run ‘Bluebell Specials‘ making use of a restored 1913 Observation Carriage offering panoramic views of the bluebells during the ride.
If bluebells put you in a celebratory mood, head for the delightful Bluebell Vineyard Estate where you can sample the very fine, fizzy produce of this independent winemaker. A relative newcomer to the now flourishing English wine making scene, with 8.5 hectares of vines planted in 2004, Bluebell’s Hindleap collection had a breakthrough year in 2012 when wine critic Jancis Robinson declared the Blanc de Blancs to be one of her favourites from over 90 English and French sparkling wines. Their three sparkling labels have since collected numerous awards and, I can personally testify, are all delicious. Visit the estate for a (generous) ad hoc tasting session and I guarantee you will come away with a case or two. Alternatively, you can take advantage of the lovely terrace area overlooking the vineyards and for £5, pep up your own (pre prepared) picnic with an elegant glass of Bluebell bubbly.