Below is a further chapter from A Kerridge Childhood written by Enid Simpson. For a full introduction and index to all the stories please see the head page.
There was something special about Bluebell Wood. Stepping into it was like walking into another world. Not a very big wood, only about three-quarters of a mile long, but big enough for a young girl to dream an afternoon away.
It was like nothing else on Kerridge, on a slight slope. It was surrounded by a rendered wall, and bordered by a path of fallen leaves. Another wall separated the path from a sloping field where cows from a neighbouring farm grazed.
The wood was airy and light, the overhanging trees providing shade from the rain or sun. Few people used the path as it was really the only way to get to Swanscoe Farm or Kerridge End. The only sounds were birdsong, the whispering breeze from the trees, the lowing of the cows and an occasional whistle from a train in the valley. Everywhere was peaceful and quiet.
Springtime was the time to visit the wood. The buds which had been swelling during late March and April suddenly burst into leaf and a faint, green haze, like a fairy mantle, cloaked the entire place. Then on a day of enchantment, the bluebells were there. Not a sign of them one day and on the next there was a drift of blue carpeting the ground.
There is nothing quite like the first glimpse of these beautiful bell-shaped flowers. Around the trees, along the borders of the wall, every nook and cranny was a glory of delicate blue, white and lavender coloured flowers, drooping their beads in a modest, almost Victorian way. Their pale green spear-like leaves provided enough support and colour to make the shimmering iridescent flowers even more beautiful. The clear shafts of the sun filtering through the bare new leaves of the trees caught the wonder of Spring at its best.
We never picked these dainty flowers, because we knew that once they left the shelter of the wood and the ferns which gave their roots the moisture they needed, they would die. We were careful not to trample on them, and admired them from the walls on which we sat.
Halfway along the path, an underground spring emerged. A moss and lichen covered spout allowed the water to slowly drip on the path and disappear again. The water was crystal clear, cold and so refreshing. It had a champagne sparkle not found in tap water. We children used to cup our hands and let the water gently run into them before drinking it. Mystics of old probably labelled the water The Elixir of Life. When Grannie lay dying, she asked Dad to bring her some water from Bluebell Wood. Maybe she thought it had healing qualities, who knows? I know I have never since tasted water like that from the spring in Bluebell Wood.
I liked to go down to the wood whenever I could, to dream an early summer afternoon away. To find a place where a few stones had fallen from the wall, providing a seat from which to drink in the beauty of colour and the elusive perfume of the bluebells, this was my escape. Life was very practical in our village and people didn’t have much time for dreams. Therefore it was wonderful to disappear and let the imagination take over. It wasn’t hard to visualize another world, an enchanted world where money was of no importance and those far-away lands could be near at hand to visit and enjoy, if only in my fantasy.
I always wanted to visit the wood at night, when the long evening twilight was fading and the moon was at its fullest. The silvery light would show the wood in a different setting – a glimpse of white unicorns stepping daintily on their tiny hooves, a couple of white rabbits scurrying off – maybe to the Mad Hatter’s tea party, a glint of nocturnal birds flitting through the trees, an owl practising his love call to a distant mate, an outpouring of song from a nearby nightingale, and perhaps, if one looked hard enough, there may have been a fairy ring and some ethereal figures preparing for the night’s revels.
Such dreams, such innocent pleasures – in such an idyllic setting. These are the memories of Bluebell Wood.
© 1985 Enid Simpson