"The Bluebell is the sweetest flower
That waves in summer air,
Its blossoms have the mightiest power
To soothe my spirit's care."
May is the time for Bluebells and there is no better time to visit an ancient wood in the Sussex wilderness to feel enchanted and BEWITCHED... The alluring scent and colour creating pools of blue mystic. All fairy tales begin and end in the woods. Anything seems possible. Stirrings of childhood fears and curiosities... a separate world which allows the magic to live.
Breathing in the perfume of flora and dampness of wood and moss... (One of my favourite things), I venture further into the wooded abyss...
The great light bulb in the sky is diffused by the protective trees and birdsong breaks in to chorus as I stumble for a moment to a halt and, in front is a swamp. I sit and wonder. Dragonflies are abundant and hovering to take in the view. Mayflies are dancing in turmoil and the boggy pond underworld is hit by a beam of light...
Amongst a river of bluebells life reveals secrets of mythology through the wisdom of the trees. Tales of the messenger of the gods Mercury, bringing souls to the underworld. Ancient Celtic folklore believes that Mercury's real name is Lugh, god of sorcery, poetry, history and carpenters. Many a legend would have hoofed- humans, wolves, faeries, demons, spirits and other woodland creatures inhabit the woods. And perhaps they do. It is not so hard to believe. Still, my own experience was one of splendour. The magnificence of a short-lived bloom such is the bluebell, leaving one with a feeling of peace, balance and replenishment. Or as Emily Bronte said, soothing the spirit. The magical carpet of blue wonder never fails to bring joy. It is an annual spectacle to be witnessed. The little woodland bells ringing a whisper from the wood-spirits... a gentle whisper. Eclipsing the darkness which some believe still exists in the wooded underworld.
I only saw light...
So, enraptured and relaxed, trusting the best of the day was behind me, I began my journey back to London. The winding country roads and views of the Sussex Downs led me to the main road. In fact this road was the A27 and extremely busy with traffic. keeping close to the hedgerow and avoiding falling in the ditch, I walked happily towards the station. But something caught my eye... I stopped and slowly took steps backwards thinking I may have seen a large domestic cat sitting on the fence. I was anxious considering the hurtling cars speeding past. Then, with an almighty gasp of excitement... "Its a Sparrow hawk!" Close enough to see that he had seen me, he then lifted his huge wings and flew off... One last spell was cast and this stunning, wild bird of prey had indeed ensnared me with his powerful and majestic presence and in that short precious moment, I was BEWITCHED.
Photographs by Helen Ratcliff.