Every year, a certain patch of wood in Wanstead park – dedicated throughout the year as an area to nurture bluebell growth – seems to have an exotic fluid poured onto it from above, as purple spills everywhere, spreading across the forest floor right up to the thin logs which mark the pathways. People fill this little patch too; it is often very encouraging indeed to be in a corner of nature, surrounded by people, yet by silence too, as everyone is in joint and quiet admiration of the spectacle.


This is a photograph I took in mid-April of 2024, just as the bluebells in Wanstead Park, North-East London, were beginning to wither.


There also may be more fruit buried in comparing the spread of bluebells to that of an exotic fluid as originally meets the eye (or appetite). According to folklore, bluebells were believed to have been a vital ingredient in many witches’ potions used to capture people, though I believe that you only have to visit Wanstead Park in Spring to be captured by their magic.


I find that the further symbolism of bluebells is perhaps even more touching than the sight of their Epic purple sea. Firstly, as the Woodland Trust proclaims, bluebells are often an indicator that you are standing on Ancient Woodland (in the UK, this means an area which has been continuously wooded since 1600 or earlier), which gives these flowers, which only appear for a month or two per year, an extreme amount of power. A handful of bluebells which will bloom for less time than it takes for you to finish a Netflix series are standing representatives of over 400 years of woodland history.


Finally, the bluebells represents humility. Not only in literature, but in reality; this year the bluebells humbled me as I only got out to see them when they had started to look a little droopy in the mouth and trodden round the edges. Even beyond their time in the sun the bluebells humble me, as they do many others. The bluebells, as they come out for just a few weeks in the Spring, seem to – when looking back – highlight other things happening in my life while they were in bloom. Last year, it was GCSE revision, the year before it was discovering my love for walking, another year it was celebrating Easter during lockdown. The way in which the memory of the bluebells’ bloom each year seems to push other contemporary memories to bloom do make the flowers humblingly nostalgic, as the memories which they highlight are tinged with purple beauty.

When the bluebells make their silent appearance next year, head to Wanstead Park, walk through the bluebell forest and have your memories of that particular time in your life beautifully immortalised, preserved by the bluebells.


Ted Howden Chalmers