What better excuse for booking a holiday cottage in May? It’s bluebell season, when for a mere few weeks our woods come alive with a wash of purple-blue flowers with a heady scent, announcing that spring has truly sprung. There is something very enchanting and quintessentially English about the phenomenon (half the world’s bluebell woods are in the UK after all), with the pretty flowers linked to folk tales of fairy abductions and truth charms.
The flowers are short-lived, and so once they are out, you should grab the opportunity to see them at their best, and there is nowhere better in my opinion than the iron-age hill fort of Blackbury Camp.
Our English hill forts are pretty impressive spaces in themselves, an ‘eloquent testimony of the technical ability and social organization of the Iron Age peoples’, as ethnologist J Forde-Johnston has put it. With its impressive ramparts, the oval-shaped Blackbury Camp is no exception, but add bluebells and the place is truly magical.
Not wanting to miss the sight of the bluebells, on Bank Holiday Monday we stopped off at Blackbury Camp on our way to a coastal walk along the South West Coast Path near Sidmouth. The camp’s ramparts are now surrounded by woodland, and climbing up and entering the space to be met with a shimmering carpet of bluebells encircled by a canopy of trees reaching up to the sky like a gothic cathedral simply took my breath away.
We were not alone, the camp is a popular spot for picnics and walkers, and of course photographers. One mum, clearly not heeding any warnings of fairy enchantment, was photographing her toddler taking his first steps through the bluebells, a lovely sight. I did my best to capture the scene, but its essence was hard to pin down, with the colours ever shifting in the changing light, as a light breeze created undulating ripples through the bluebell carpet.
At the southern entrance to the camp there is an information panel showing what this would have looked like in the iron age, with an overhead walkway and triangular barbican entrance. From the ramparts at this side of the camp the land slopes down the hill, with the defensive banks of the hill fort clearly visible. It must have been pretty spectacular in its day.
We left Blackbury Camp enchanted and energised by its sheer beauty, with a feeling of how lucky we are to have this combination of ancient history and indigenous nature at our fingertips. Come on holiday in Devon and experience it for yourself!
By Mary Costello (of Molly and the Princess blog)
All image credits to Mary