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The Blue By You

Peter BottomleyWritten by Peter J Bottomley, Saltaire reporter.

Did you enjoy the nice weather we had over Easter and into May? Perhaps you were out walking, riding or fishing by the River Aire and the Leeds/Liverpool canal around Saltaire and Hirst Wood, or strolling up the path through Milner Fields? If so, did you hear bells ringing?

Many people will have noticed the Bluebells carpeting both sides of the water from the Hirst Wood locks to the aqueduct at Dowley Gap. The walk up Milner Fields had just the same carpet at each side of the path from the South to the North Lodge. Every year the density of the British Bluebell in these areas is getting better, and the magnificent show they put on is a sight to behold. In olden times people believed the bells rang out to summon fairies, and if humans heard the ringing they would soon die! [Mouse over image to enlarge.]

The British Bluebell is a protected species, so it is illegal to pick the flowers. You can also be fined for selling the bulbs. There are Pinkbells and even Whitebells, but they are all still called Bluebells.

There are around 30% of the world’s population of Bluebells in Great Britain, mostly in woodland areas, though some grow in open fields, so it’s important not to trample on them. The British Bluebell is in danger, according to some flower experts such as those at the Bluebell Trust. There is a Bluebell survey being carried out through the Plantlife International website, which is worth a look at.  

The British Bluebell is called Hyacinthoides non-scripta, and is being invaded by the Spanish type called Hyacinthoides Hispanic. There is also a hybrid called Hyacinthoides x Massartiana. These other types are brought to our shores by insects from the continent because of the warmer climate we are having, and cross pollination then takes place.

I have seen lots of Bluebells, but never heard the ringing, so I think I am safe. If you hear a ringing in Saltaire, it’s probably just the school dinner bell, so you’ll be safe as well….unless, of course, you actually see any fairies, and then you are doomed!

Please don’t have nightmares, sleep well….

© P J Bottomley, June 2007

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