When I was growing up, I think I took for granted how beautiful England can be.
During childhood, I roamed, along with my sisters and the other children we lived nearby, through the fields and forests that surrounded the sprawling council estates that made up our town. There was the golf course, and all around it, a vast array of every shade of green in the form of fields, copses, woods, shady valleys.
Escaping the grey concrete pre-fab maze of the residential estates and galloping over to our slither of greenbelt paradise. We adventured in earnest. There were trees to climb, there were berries to gather, there were ponds to dangle our little feet in. The lush green countryside was our playground.
I remember so well, the first time I saw something that forever changed my view of the green playground where we spent endless days of laughter. I remember crossing the footbridge high above the dual-carriageway separating the housing estates from the rural haven that surrounded the town.
To the right of the bridge there was a little hollow with mostly tall slim trees amidst a few giants. We didn’t usually play there because it was a popular site for fly-tipping. Shopping trolleys, old washing machines and refrigerators, rolls of carpet spoiled the otherwise ideal pocket of paradise we played in. But this day, I turned and looked to the right and lo and behold – a vision of loveliness hiding in the shade.
I could not believe my eyes. So thrilled was I that I ran all the way home again and described to my mum what I had beheld, “Mum, it’s unbelievable it’s as if there is a blue carpet in between the trees, there are so many flowers and they are all over the ground. It’s so beautiful, you won’t believe it. Please come and see.”
My mum came back with me, along with my two younger sisters. Mum told me they were bluebells. Bluebells. That was the first time I heard of them. That was the first time I beheld them and was enchanted by the effect they created. Their abundant clusters hiding away in the shade of the leafy canopy above turning the floor a delightful purple blue. I was memorised.
I visited every chance I had for a couple of weeks to see them. And then one day, they seemed to have vanished, just as miraculously as they came. I was mourning their loss. Mum explained to me that once a year in the middle of spring they would erupt and then flee until the following year.
Since then…every spring I feel that flutter of excitement as April arrives…for that is when I expect to find hiding away in the shade a sea of bluebells carpeting the woodland floor. One of the joys of life – bluebells woods.