Saturday 26 April 2014

Foxley Wood

I was hoping to get to Foxley Wood in Norfolk for the wonderful show of bluebells. However Spring has come early this year and I fear they may be past their best by the time I make it there. Never mind I was there what I thought was a couple of years ago, but which I now realise was five years ago. How do I know? Because I wrote up my visit very fully at the time. So here notes and photos from that visit.

Foxley Wood does get a chapter in Neil Glenn's book "Best Birdwatching Sites In Norfolk" though apart from a very slim chance of seeing a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker it hardly appears to be worthy of inclusion on birding grounds alone. It is however one of the largest natural oakwoods in Norfolk and also home of one of the most spectacular shows of Bluebells in the country.

"one of the most spectacular shows of bluebells in the country."
My initial impression was that this wasn't much of a wood: the track went through a large area of scrub, young trees struggling to get above their neighbours. A few spindly trees grew above them and there were one or two conifers mixed in. A sign explained that during the 1960's the area was cleared of its natural woodland and conifers were planted for pit props. The market collapsed and the wood was bought by the Norfolk Naturalists Trust who felled the conifers to allow the native trees to re-establish the wood. The trees have proved very resilient and no trees have actually been planted; all these trees have regrown naturally. At least two Willow Warblers were singing from the dense cover.

"more mature woodland"

"a large plot of coppiced trees"

Around the next corner I came to more mature woodland and a large plot of coppiced trees. Coppicing is the process where trees are cut back almost to the ground. The tree stumps send up several slender poles which when they've grown sufficiently, a few years later, are harvested again. A few mature trees are usually left among the coppiced stumps. When the coppice wood is cut it lets in the light allowing wild flowers to grow and alongside the track I found a clump of Early Purple Orchids. Chiffchaffs sang from the branches overhanging the path.

"a clump of early purple orchids"

Now, where are these Bluebells? A narrow path led off towards a bank rich with bluebells but a look at the map confirmed that a more extensive patch of flowers lay along the more distinct track leading to the right. After just a few steps I could see a suggestion of blue through the undergrowth, then a patch of flowers right beside the path. A little further and I was gazing at a carpet of Bluebells stretching from my feet, between the bushes and in among the distant trees. The camera soon came out, but finding the right viewpoint was far from easy, particularly as I didn't want to stray off the path and trample any blooms.

"a carpet of bluebells"

The Bluebells stretched along both sides of the track for several hundred yards and I made slow progress with camera constantly at the ready. A few other people were also enjoying the show, but not as many as I would expect at the weekend. A man approached me and asked if I might be a botanist as he had seen me looking closely at the flowers. I told him I wasn't. "Ah, neither am I, I fear. In fact as I get older I realise the great depths of my ignorance." And with that he strode off, whistling merrily. I turned his odd words over in my mind. Turned them completely upside down in fact. Isn't realising your own ignorance much the same as being aware of the greater mystery?

"looking closely at the flowers"

Eventually the Bluebells petered out but they were replaced by small clumps of other flowers scattered along the grassy verges of the track. The white stars of Wood Anemones studded the shady places. A few bright yellow flowers of Celandine still remained. Primroses formed little bouquets in among the greenery and there were also contributions from Violets, Wood Sorrel, Meadow Sweet and Wood Avens.

"primroses formed little bouquets"

Chiffchaffs sang their monotonous song as I sat on a bench soaking up the spring sunshine. I realised that there was a track forming a short-cut back to the Bluebell wood. I followed the path, more to explore it than because I wanted to cut short the experience. It led me to a small gate with a sign which, apart from telling me to enjoy my walk, also promised the spectacle of "flying sheep". It went on to explain that the Norfolk Wildlife Trust has a flock which it moves around its many sites in order to control the spread of scrub by grazing. Not as exciting as flying sheep but more useful.

 "a short-cut back to the bluebell wood"

Take care.


  1. What a spectacular place! Those bluebells are amazing! Glad you featured them, 'cause I'll likely never see them except through your blog.

  2. John -- I would love to walk through your described park. It seems like such an idealistic place to meander and think. The stands of natural trees and flowers seem so soothing. The bluebells are lovely! -- barbara -- FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK

  3. The bluebells are very lovely . I like the contrast in photo 2 of the bare hardwood trunks and branches and the soft green of the new leaves on the shrubs. Very inviting.
    Every time I plant a seed I am amazed at the transformation that's about to take place. Never fails to cheer me.

  4. ...nice that you had those notes; made for an enjoyable post John. What a sight to see; it sure would be memorable. It doesn't seem that they have any perfume? Bees??

  5. The bluebells are among nature's many marvels. I enjoyed this five year old walk with you. Does it matter that it was not yesterday? No, of course not. A fine ramble from whenever.

  6. Oh, the bluebells are magnificent, - we do not see them here, so really appreciate your photos, John. Also your comment about the mysteries of life versus the realization that we don't know it all, even if we thought so when young!!!!

  7. They ARE early this year - it's not often we have daffodils and bluebells out at the same time. What with Easter being late, I am struggling to orientate myself this year. Like you, I'm unlikely to find time to get to a bluebell wood before they are over, so it is lovely to see these.

  8. What lovely photographs you took and I love the notes you made to go with them :)

    1. Thanks Louise for pointing me to this lovely post. John, I was at Foxley Wood today and it was beautiful, the bluebells were really stunning and the birds were singing in the warm sunshine

  9. Those bluebells are amazing! Wish I could see them for myself! Such a wonderful feast to the eyes! :)
    Thanks for sharing!!!

  10. What fabulous photos of the bluebells. This definitely looks worth a visit on my next visit to my son. They live about 45 minutes from Norwich so it's perfectly doable for a day out.

  11. The blue carpet is just heart-stopping, John. We have a few wild bluebells in WV, but none near me unfortunately. I've heard the word coppice but didn't know what it meant.

  12. Bluebells are so nice as undergrowth. I don’t know the places where I can see the sea of bluebells, or bluebell wood in my country. The landscaped looks very British. “Isn't realising your own ignorance much the same as being aware of the greater mystery?” Great, positive idea. I’ll keep in mind.


  13. Problem is that time flies by when your having fun.{:))
    I think that bluebells are about 4 weeks early this year John.

  14. The bluebell carpet is just beautiful. I like the name of your blog and enjoyed reading how you came to name it. I'll be back!

  15. Fabulous tour, as usual. I've met several people who don't know anything about ignorance.

  16. Lovely bluebells in their beautiful wood! I grew up next to a bluebell wood in Buckinghamshire and it I always try to have a bluebell walk one day each Spring. Have a good week John!


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