May reminds me of exams, and sunny weather that you couldn’t really benefit from because you were studying for the exams, but a much nicer memory of May are the many walks I have enjoyed since childhood, through the bluebells. My memory of bluebells was jogged the other day when I went to visit a friend in Co. Down. While I was there, we went for a walk and took a shortcut through an old cemetery. Bluebells had taken over the place. Beautiful, radiant and full of life, I have to say it was the most magnificent graveyard I have ever seen.
My memory of bluebells were imprinted on my mind long before the dreaded exam phase and a drift of bluebells takes me right back to my childhood days when my siblings and I ran freely and played in a place that we considered our very own bluebell wood. Sitting in my parent’s garden recently, I took a notion of going for a walk to that happy place that held so many magical memories, a quiet, peaceful kingdom with secret paths, ancient sounds and hypnotic scent. I wasn’t disappointed.
Climbing over a forgotten stile at the side of the road I stepped back in time. I have an insatiable love of the wild and enjoy getting lost far away from nowhere. I got a little bit of that feeling when I crossed over a trickling brook and climbed up a small embankment to disappear under the trees which had been our enchanting forest. Following the, now deserted, overgrown leafy path I arrived at our small but intoxicating bluebell wood. A wave of nostalgia swept over me as the heavily scented bluebells came into view. In the dark, shadowy spots, beneath the trees, hundreds upon hundreds of delicate blue flowers were growing silently in the soft morning sun that gently warmed my face. Clutching my floral lined picnic basket, I remove my sandals and tiptoed barefoot through the bluebell path, careful not to shake one, partly because I know, now, bluebells are a rare and protected species (Bluebells are not yet protected in Ireland but it is believed that they have declined in numbers due to excessive picking and the erosion of woodlands.) but also because I was cautioned as a child to thread carefully through the bluebells. If I didn’t, a bluebell would ring out a secret sound that only fairies can hear and they would arise from their hiding places and enchant the person who disturbed the bluebells, never to be seen again. Back then, I believed in fairies and my behaviour would suggest I still do, but if you don’t believe in fairies you might agree that this folk tale was a way of stopping us, as children, from trampling and plucking the flowers so as not to weaken the following year’s bluebells.
After my walk, I sat with Mum and Dad, a cup of tea in hand, sharing cake and childhood memories. I was glad I took a walk down memory lane. May is a particularly good time to walk, with several dry sunny days, great visibility, cuckoos singing in the valleys, and bluebells in abundance if you fancy tiptoeing through your nearest ‘bluebell wood’ sometime soon. What an uplifting sight they are every year at this time reminding us all of childhood magic and the coming of summer. But be careful! Remember the fairies are watching and listening out for the bluebells. Besides, it’s up to us to make sure future children and grandchildren enjoy the magic of bluebells too.