Tag Archives: bluebells

Bluebell Woods

It’s bluebell time again. I have measured out my life not through coffee spoons like J Alfred Prufrock but through bluebells. These are taken at Duncliffe wood in Dorset at dusk. The scent of the flowers is always strongest then. It’s hard to concentrate on writing when I know that just a few miles away the bluebells are waiting for me…

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the oldest tree in dorset

Before I get to the oldest tree, I’m going to answer one of Kate’s questions. (Thanks for asking them Kate!)

So, ‘What was the turning point in your craft?’

The answer to this involves a confession. Like many debut novelists, my first published novel is not actually my first attempt at writing. Before Mr Rosenblum’s List, I wrote a really bad novel. Not a promising novel with a few dodgy passages, but an out an out stinker. The plot sucked, (in fact, there wasn’t really a plot, it just wandered) the characterization was thin, the description self-conscious, the narrator irritating, the set-up tepid and the voice less interesting than draining bath-water. If you want a ‘how not to write a novel guide’, all you’d need to do is read my first attempt.

Only my boyfriend glimpsed this monstrosity. He was actually very nice about it but, seeing his face, I knew. I cried. I actually cried so hard that I bruised my eyelids – (didn’t know that was possible did you?) I even revised the manuscript – over a couple of years. I took breaks from it and then came back to it and revised again.

After a break of many months, during which the boyfriend and I got married, (and he became Mr S or rather I Mrs S, since I suppose, he was really Mr S all along) I read the novel again. Still crap. In truth, it was a little better. The beginning was kind of nice and my heroine less annoying. But, I thought that perhaps it might be fun to write something new. Maybe, now I had learned some stuff, the next novel wouldn’t be quite so bad.

Mr S was adamant. ‘You need to write about Dorset.’ I love Dorset, and if you could see me when I’m writing about it, I even look happy and sparkly-eyed. I of course listen to Mr S in all things, (he might object to this, even quite vociferously, but this is not his blog so ha!) and began a story set in the Blackmore Vale.

To my surprise, I realised that I had discovered a huge amount about writing through all my mistakes with the first novel. And it turned out the next book, which became Mr R, didn’t suck.

I wanted it so much that I learned to write through sheer force of will.

Now, this is the oldest tree in Dorsetshire. It looks like many trees, but that ring of beeches are shoots from the main trunk of an ancient tree that was many thousands of years old. These tree circles are shadows lingering from the old world.

me and the big tree

me and the big tree

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Dorset bluebells

This is, quite possibly, my favourite time of year. If you have never seen an English bluebell wood, hasten to the countryside this weekend.

Bluebells flower for a week or two in late April or early May. It really is magic – nothing but blue for acres and acres. The tiny white flowers are wood anemones. They’re studded amongst the bluebells like little white stars. This morning, I felt like I’d gone for a walk in a fairy tale.

Bluebells are the quintessential English flower. They flower when the tree canopy is just beginning to unfurl, so they have the perfect amount of shade. They don’t like coniferous  or evergreen forests, nor too much bramble or gorse. For a bluebell, the ideal home is ancient woodland consisting of beech, oaks and birch. Yet, if a wood is cut down, or the undergrowth takes hold, the bluebell bulb can lurk beneath the soil for a thousand years. It waits. When the forest is regrown after hundreds of years, and the brambles cleared, it flowers again.

Here are some pictures of Duncliffe wood in Dorset. The woodland is managed by the Woodland Trust, who keep a blog of the best bluebell sites in the UK. Check it out so you can go and visit some bluebells near you:

http://www.woodland-trust.org.uk

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In sloping woodland, they are a blue river, and where the light hits they appear to be ripples on the surface.

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And finally, a close-up so that you can see their little nodding heads.

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