April and May are the Bluebell months in England but the April showers were also plentiful this year. For several weekends I’d been watching the bluebells in our front garden, wanting to get out into the Bluebell woods around Bristol but put off by the heavy rain.
Finally we got a sunny day and set off for our Bluebell walk at Prior’s wood near Portbury, over the Clifton Suspension Bridge and turn left just before junction 19 of the M5.
We parked the car in a lay-by just beyond the village of Portbury and walked back to the gated lane with the old lodge. The wood was once part of the Tyntesfield Estate near Wraxall that is now owned by the National Trust and timber was used in the estate sawmills. Luckily I found a handy 1 page PDF guide to Prior’s Wood from the Avon Wildlife Trust, that gave us excellent directions and information for our bluebell walk.
Following the suggestion on the guide we headed straight up the hill rather than turning right by the lodge like everyone else and passing a house went through another gate on the track. Immediately after the gate we turned left following the Prior’s Wood signs and down some steps to a flat track that skirted the side of the hill. Down to our left was a stream but on the hillside were plenty of bluebells among the clearings of oaks and sweet chestnut trees.
On this side of the hill the background hum of the motorway traffic was more muffled and somewhere high up in the trees a bird was warbling it’s heart out. I experimented with different camera settings, trying to get the perfect bluebell shot until Guy asked “do you think you have enough bluebell photos now?” and we continued our walk.
Skirting the edge of the hill on a track that was muddy and churned up (thank goodness for the Wellington boots) we eventually came to the end of the high ground where we could see another gate into the wood and fields beyond. In the distance we could see the Children’s Hospice Southwest who had originally owned the wood and sold it to the Avon Wildlife Trust. Here there was an information sign and map of the woods and we turned down the hill, where countryside was more open but still with clouds of bluebells on either side – who says that bluebells only grow in the shade?
At the end of the path was a stream with a slatted wooden bridge to cross and on the other side, a path that skirted the hill with thick woodland and more bluebells on either side although not quite so many, as the tree canopy was heavier here. After a while the paths opened up showing a vista of a meadow with some onion scented wild garlic (the thugs of the wood) and then we joined an open path with a view towards the motorway and walked back towards the lodge and the start of our walk. We passed a solo woman walking who asked us anxiously if we’d seen any bluebells?
“Oh yes”, we said, “just up there and over there and round there”, but she’d have almost done better to turn back and start her walk in the other direction as we had. Behind her were two families, the mums chatting to one another, children banging sticks in mock fights that they’d picked up along the way.
If you get there next weekend, you’ll probably still see some bluebells but a week more and I expect they’ll be gone – I’m sure the walk is lovely just the same and you can always come back next year, from mid April to mid May. When the bluebells are in full bloom in your garden, they’ll be a couple of weeks behind in the woods.
For more information about Prior’s wood, check the Avon Wildlife Trust page for Prior’s wood and print off their PDF guide to Prior’s wood before you go. The walk took us about an hour and a half, and if you’d like to try another Bluebell walk in Bristol there’s always the Bluebell wood near Abbot’s Leigh.