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Bluebell walk at Great Alne Wood

Bluebells stretching out in a forest glen are always a wonderful sight to behold.  This year there has been an abundance of bluebells and they are slightly earlier than previous times.  For the photographer, bluebells are so appealing and to see the blue flowers either close up or at a distance is always very appealing.  This year I first noticed the bluebells when I visited the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham and then again during a bike ride to Hay Wood that is close to home.  I have visited several bluebell woods before, including Austy Woods, and I am always on the lookout for one that may offer a different take on this renowned British walk.  The Heart of England Forest‘s Bluebell Wood which is in Great Alne, Warwickshire, held a charity woodland walk to help to conserve these irreplaceable ancient woodland habitats.  I found it by chance on browsing through Facebook and signed up for the event.

Bluebell walk at Great Alne Wood
The start of the walk on a glorious spring day.
Bluebell walk at Great Alne Wood
The path into the bluebell wood.
Bluebell walk at Great Alne Wood
A beautiful ancient woodland with a lovely carpet of bluebells.

The wood is near to one of my favourite breweries, Purity Beer, but sadly we passed the entrance and arrived at the Great Alne wood.  Another time maybe! There were a few parked cars and there was a warm welcome from the organisers.  My daughter, Natasha and Noah, my grandson, came with me and we set off to explore.  This is an ancient wood and there were strategic signs placed along the way that gave us interesting nuggets of information about the wood.  There was also a tree log strategically placed midway during the walk, where we could get some lovely selfie pictures with a bluebell backdrop.  The place was quiet, and we felt at one with the place.  The wood has a rolling terrain with gentle hills which show off the bluebells.  Having had our fill of the bluebells we made our way back to the start.  There was a short detour to a hill that provided a view of the surrounding area.  The sun was out throughout the visit and this helped with the photography and views of both bluebells and scenery. 

Bluebell walk at Great Alne Wood
Bluebell backgrounds always makes for a lovely photograph.
Bluebell walk at Great Alne Wood
A view of bluebells in the ancient woodland.
Bluebell walk at Great Alne Wood
The perfect opportunity for a lensball picture

Photographic tips – I took my tripod with me, and I used my Canon 5D mkIV.  I brought my general-purpose lens EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM and a zoom lens EF70-200mm f/4L IS USM.  I added a polariser on the 24-70mm lens.  All pictures were taken in manual setting with the ISO 100 and I had my tripod to allow for a low shutter speed.  My trusty iPhone13 also delivered some excellent pictures.

Bluebell walk at Great Alne Wood
The final view of the Warwickshire countryside.

I have added links to previous bluebell walks.  Please also visit the Heart of England Forest websites to learn more about what they do protecting and developing our forests.
Bluebells in Austy Woods
Heart of England Forest

Ever since the Government eased the strict lockdown then I cleaned up my bike and started to go out on bike rides.  I throw my Canon 5D camera into a bag with both the EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM and EF70-200mm f/4L IS USM.  Both lenses are excellent in covering most situations where I want to take pictures.  With the bright sunlight, I do use my polaroid lens fileter on the 24-70mm lens.  

Bluebells at Hay Wood

My first ride was to Hay Wood and then followed that up with going to Lapworth and the picturesque Kingswood junction. It did take some time to rest my stiff muscles before I was able to get going again.  After the short rest, I started to become more adventurous and went down to Lowsenford and back through Lapworth.  Following this,  I pushed myself further by going to Tanworth in Arden via Earlswood lakes.  This ride was challenging as it was a very windy day and there was a definite disadvantage as you cycled into the wind.  My next adventure was to Meriden and the centre of England.  The miles were being stacked up and I felt confident of my next ride to Kenilworth which was 24 miles there and back.  It was great to see the castle at Kenilworth even though one could only peer over the walls. 

The lockmaster’s cottage owned by the Landmark Trust at Lowsenford.

Doing these bike rides makes me realise how beautiful the Warwickshire countryside is and I hope you agree when you see this set of pictures.

Meriden Duck Pond
Brook Meadow in Darley Green near Dorridge
Field of Barley, near Temple Balsall
Kenilworth Castle

During the weeks of lockdown, the garden flowers and blossom start to look very attractive objects to photograph. luckily I have my macro 100mm and ring flash to take pictures. I have also experimented with different views of the flowers from the more traditional look to close up macro. I have also looked at different lighting approaches. Here are a few of my pictures taken in my garden during April 2020 lockdown.

Dragon head flowers
This was a stacked picture of 6 photographs
Star Tulip
Magnolia Blossom
The colour purple
Dandelion close up
….but the flowers have a limited life

We have never been to Ragley Hall in our time in the Midlands, so when my daughter Natasha suggested visiting on one of the open days then I was easily persuaded. We only signed up for the gardens as we had my grandson, Noah but it was still good fun. The grounds are expansive and there is a lake with forrest. The bluebells were past their sell by date and the path was not passable in places. However, the gardens were in immaculate condition and the Scott Garden with statues was beautifully laid out. We enjoyed the lunch in the cellars at the Hall and next time I must go and visit the state rooms. Hope you enjoy all the pictures that I took 🙂

The annual bluebell walk in Austy Wood is not taking place in 2019 “Due to ongoing forestry operations and other contributing factors……” This is disappointing as it is a glorious sight with a lovely carpet of bluebells. However there is a public footpath that just takes you into the top part of the forrest. I got up early and set off for the Wood. Although it was cold, there was the prospect of a lovely sunrise and warm conditions to follow. The walk takes you over the Stratford-upon-Avon canal and then up a narrow lane to the wood. It was still and quiet and I was the only one around. I saw deer and two large hares bounded past me at speed. I was not camera ready at the time.

Lensball in the woods

I took several pictures and then I reached the top of the wood and there were the bluebells in all their glory. I spent a good hour there taking pictures. I used a mixture of my lens including my wide angled and telephoto zoom lens. One of my iPhone pictures made The BBC weather and I also got the chance to use my Lensball for a quick picture of it resting on a tree trunk with the bluebells in the background.

Bluebells are such a photogenic subject
Forestry work taking place in the Wood
It was a lovely morning to walk up to the woods
Intense blues in the wood.
The trees provide a nice backdrop
Path in the sun
Used a graduated ND filter to bring up the forest floor.
A simple iPhone picture makes The BBC local news website.

Over the Bank Holiday weekend, Austy Wood opened its doors .  The wood is privately owned and is normally not accessible to the public.  There is a footpath that navigates the edge of the wood and it is possible to look into the wood and imagine what it is like.  Three charities came together to make it possible to visit the inside of the wood.  Volunteers from Cure Leukaemia, Rotary Club and the Firefighter’s Charity helped organise and arrange for the woods to be open.  It was not only the charities that benefited as there was also a donation to Wootton Warren primary school.

Austy wood boasts the best Bluebell display in Warwickshire and is located on the Stratford Road just past Wooton Warren.  The route is approximately 1 ½ miles long.  The walk starts at Yew Tree Farm and initially you pass over the Stratford-upon-Avon canal and then move onto the farm houses where representatives from the charities take your fee.  A gentle uphill walk leads to the wood.  Look back and you see a magnificent view of the Warwickshire countryside.  Don’t worry about a picture as you revisit that view at the end of the walk.  Entering the woods, I was excited by the sporadic displays of bluebells but this was just a taster to the real show waiting.  Meeting volunteer firemen, the path moves through a meadow and skirts some beautiful carpets of blue flowers.  Yet again this is just the prelude to the main event.  As the path moves deeper into the wood, the carpet becomes thicker and with the sun relatively low in the morning sky, there are lovely shadows to be photographed.

The path then doubles back and drops down into varied parts of the wood.  By this time, you are able to take in the bluebell vista and there are a few surprises such as badger paths and old upturned tree trunks.  Then finally the path leads out of the woods and it is back to that wonderful vista of the Warwickshire countryside.

 

There was so much to photograph and the colours of the bluebells was intense.  The light and shadows was exhilarating and needless to say many photographs were taken.

Thank you to the three charities who helped organise the event.  Dave of the Rotary Club asked if the pictures could be used to advertise the event for next year.  I know that I will be looking out for the dates when the wood is open next year.

The pictures include those of the different volunteers that I met on my walk through the woods.

The opening picture was featured by the BBC on their weatherwatchers site “Record breaking bank holiday weather”

Stratford-upon-Avon Canal

Setting off

Volunteers at the start

Long shadows in the morning

Made in Oz?

Onwards and upwards

Bluebells at the start of the walk

Firefighter volunteer

The beautiful blue carpet

Green paths through the blue

The blue carpet thickens

Wide angled view

Pine “fruit”

Light and shadows on the Bluebells

Close up and bokeh

The morning sun breaks through the trees

More blue views

The views go on and on

More happy volunteers

Who made this path?

Coming to the end of the woodland walk

The arrow shows the way out

Not a bad place to volunteer.

Thank you to our sponsoring charities

The beautiful Warwickshire countryside

More visitors arriving

It is busy at the start

The car park is filling up

A great family day out

A friendly face at the car park. I will be back next year.