Spread across two hectares (just under five acres) there’s currently a sea of the most beautiful native bluebells under the canopy of the trees. They appear in April and they should last until the end of May, so we’re fortunate enough to hopefully have two more weeks in their company. But if you look beyond the blue, springtime in the copse sees anemones, primroses, buttercups (the goldilocks variety that prefer shaded environments), and even purple orchids. Each species shows us a different strand to the character behind this ancient woodland.
It was planted in the 18th century. It grew oak that was chopped and sold to build, and coppiced hazel for fencing. In 1999, it was bought by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust who have since cared for it with the helping hands of volunteers. Together they cut back trees to allow sunlight to reach the earth so the woodland flowers can thrive. They also continue to coppice sections in the traditional way, covering the ‘stools’ with twigs to protect them from deer and rabbits who would otherwise eat the shoots and prevent regrowth.
The nature within Hagbourne Copse goes much further than plant life. The flora and fauna attract a variety of butterflies such as the peacock and the comma; birds nest high and low, from blue tits to great spotted woodpeckers and even the occasional sparrow hawk; the corner pond plays host to newts, common frogs and mallards; and rabbits, foxes, shrews and roaming deer have also come to call it home.
That first lunchtime stroll will be one of many. There’s a short, circular path that’s easy to follow and unless it’s rained, we know we’ll be able to go without the need for a change of shoes. It’s a new place for us to enjoy a bout of fresh air, to step away from our screens, to have a bit of thinking time and space. And when the bluebells are long gone, we’ll watch the copse as it evolves with the seasons, bringing in newness, shifting in colour, ever-changing in spectacle.