It is a great time of year for walking in the woods and there are many ancient woodlands around here to choose from. Just across the field are Butlers Wood and Waldegrave Wood, both dating back to medieval times and associated with Butlers Hall - Thomas de Butler lived here in 1361 and Richard Waldegrave in the 1400's.
Although with some the footpaths tend to go round them rather than through them, there are a number that you can explore. Suffolk Wildlife Trust reserves include Arger Fen and Spouses Vale near Assington, Groton Woods at Groton and Bradfield Woods at Bradfield St George. All are worth a visit and each has its own character. Other woods that are close by include Clay Hill Woodland at Great Henny, Loshes Woodland at Loshes Meadow, both an easy walk, and Assington Thicks at Assington and Marks Hall Estate a little futher away.
Last week I went on a 'Walk and Draw' with the Colchester Ramblers to Hillhouse Wood, West Bergholt, which is maintained by the Woodland Trust who have a wood finder website Visitwoods. They also have Fordham Hall Estate Wood and Primrose Wood near Boxford. The Ramblers welcome people joining them on their walks and their programmes are easily found on their website. Locally there are three Ramblers groups - Sudbury, Colchester and the Stour Walking Group, the latter for people in their 20's-30's.
Hillhouse Wood is interesting with undulating woodland and a rich variety of flora and fauna. The wood was carpeted with bluebells and swathes of wild garlic or rampons with their lush garlicky smell. There were also a few beautifully deep magenta spotted orchids which were quite a treat to see. I was also amazed at the trees flowering - both oak and hornbeam with masses of blossom as the leaves were just starting to form
May is the most promising of months and being a little cooler than usual it is all unfolding slowly. The house from across the field of oil seed rape was an amazing sight today - a sea of yellow and a big East Anglian sky! Saw a few woods today, but Butlers Wood, which is just across this field with its wonderful array of wildlife and masses of deer seemed to have the bluest of bluebells, think they are now at their height!
I have been walking to the woods each week and watching the bluebells come into flower, playing the child's game of are they bluest yet? Last week they were quite blue, but this week they are definitely bluer - a more intense and potent blue - wondering whether they will be bluest next week - or maybe with the recent sunshine we might have just reached bluest! Usually the sun is much stronger at this time of year and flowers seem to wither in the heat - not so this year with the daily cooling of rain that has been preserving all our Spring flowers and making them open incredibly slowly.
Hyacinthoides non-scripta or the common bluebell is particularly associated with ancient woodlands, of which there are many round here and it is magical to be in a wood surrounded by blue. The blue carpet overcomes our senses of sight and smell, you are enveloped by blue!