I always think that autumn is my favourite season and then Spring arrives and it reminds me that THIS is the season I love. Full of promise, new life, colour and lots of photo opportunities. As soon as the lighter evenings start creeping in it’s easy to see the signs – daffodils, lambs and eventually bluebells. I had been holding off visiting the bluebell woods in Perthshire until last week, I wanted to see them in their full glory. Working from home means I am lucky that I can visit during the week when it’s much quieter and so on a whim I took a drive just north of Perth. My intention was to go for just an hour but I ended up being there over three hours! Let’s be honest though, it was inevitable.
As soon as I got out of the car I could smell the sweet, heady scent of the bluebells. The bird song and the sound of a gentle breeze made me smile and I loaded all my kit onto my back. I was off. Probably about thirty paces away from the side of the road and already the sight of the flowers had me on my knees and setting up my tripod.
I literally shuffled around this spot for ten minutes, getting distracted by beetles, ladybirds and birds. Being in these woods was like having my own movie soundtrack.
Leave no trace
The waymarked trail that runs through the entire woodland is nice and wide, giving plenty of room for groups of people to walk side by side or for photographers to set up tripods and for dogs to sit an pose. One lady offered to help me up off of the floor because I had been down there so long. I explained to her that I had my shot set up and was now just waiting for the light to change. She laughed at me like I was daft, but I think it was worth the wait.
One thing I did notice whilst I was slowly wandering along the main path, was just how many bluebells had been trampled on; making walkways into the middle of the blue carpet. I suspect many of these were made by people wanting to take photos of their children or dog sat in amongst this seasonal spectacle. But I also know (because I saw it with my own eyes on my second visit) that photographers laden with kit have waded through the exact thing they travelled here to photograph. It makes me really sad. In hindsight, I now understand why some walkers were giving me an almost rolling side-eye, as if to say “another bloody photographer here to spoil it for everyone else.”
Like with everything else, there are a minority that spoil things for everyone else.
Be gentle with this British icon
Bluebells grow, mostly, in ancient woodland across the UK and will have taken hundreds of years to look this “Instagram worthy” (note: tongue in cheek). This (relatively) small island is actually home to around half of the world’s bluebells, making them very special. So special in fact that they are protected by law – The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
This law means that it is illegal to intentionally pick, uproot or damage bluebells. With a fine as much as £5000 (five thousand) per bulb. PER BULB. That’s how precious they are.
They don’t grow that easily either. They prefer ancient broadleaf woodland and, from seed, can take as long as 7 years to flower. Imagine taking that long to get somewhere or do something for it then to be ruined?
To add to this, when the leaves are damaged the plant is no longer able to send food/energy back to the bulb for next year. Essentially, it dies. Also, if the ground is compressed by people and their size 5 feet, this also prevents the bulb from growing the following year – almost like suffocation.
I love sharing my travels and adventures online. I want to inspire people to visit Scotland but to also find their own version of it, not necessarily follow in my footsteps. So here’s my dilemma – to share or not share across my social media accounts?
I stopped geo-tagging my Instagram posts about 18 months ago because of this quandary.
For instance, recently posting my bluebell photos online, non of them are geo-tagged, nor have I used a hashtag to highlight the location. These woods are not a secret and anyone who looks up “bluebell woods in Perthshire” will be rewarded with it’s location. But for my piece of mind I prefer not to say.
This week I watched a photographer’s vlog on YouTube about the up coming event of the bluebells arrival. Over three months he visited the same woods somewhere in England six times, choosing his composition, working out where the sun will be at various times of the day etc. Lots of dedication for one photo.
surprise horror as I watch him heading off the path and set up his tripod to his chosen spot. He even talks about how perfect the S bend of the path will look in his photo and happily chats away to the camera. Because of lighting issues he decides to come back for golden hour (nice soft, golden light before sunset) later in the day. Basically trampling all over these wee flowers once wasn’t good enough for this guy, he came back for seconds. Also name dropping another photographer in the back of his video shot who was also standing in the bluebells!
I commented on this guy’s IG photo taken at this spot, just saying that no photo is worth trampling on wild flowers for. He blocked me. No even the courtesy to reply and say “oops, my bad, I didn’t know I could have caused this much damage.” Basically, he doesn’t care.
Enjoy the bluebells
I didn’t want this post to turn into a rant and I’m sorry (not sorry) that it has. These dainty, sweet scented beauties deserve our respect. We clearly love them, otherwise my feeds wouldn’t be filled with their colour, just pretty, pretty please stick to the paths.
Aside from all this, I did thoroughly enjoy visiting the bluebells in Perthshire. I’m already looking forward to many more visits to these woods.