The magic of bluebells: exploring Arlington Bluebell Walk

The Magic of Bluebells: Exploring Arlington Bluebell Walk1.jpg

It's become an annual tradition to visit the Arlington Bluebell Walk in East Sussex in late April / early May - springtime would not be the same without it. Luckily for me, it's only a short drive away - but I think it's well worth a longer trek. It has the most beautiful and concentrated display of bluebells I've ever seen, and most of them can be viewed from wide accessible paths. There is a small entrance fee (£6 in 2017) which goes to a group of local charities - and it's worth every penny! 

There are 7 different walks you can take through beautiful woodland and farmland with lots of different vistas. My favourite is the short loop through Beatons Wood where most of the bluebells can be found (this is accessible to wheelchair users). There are some ponds (great for reflections) and lots of tree stumps and of course endless trees to provide interesting focal points for your photographs. Plus there are lots of seats scattered throughout the woodland for when your feet get too weary. The birdsong is so beautiful!

As you would expect, the bluebell walk gets very popular and busy at peak season with families and photographers alike. You can track the progress of the bluebells on the Arlington Bluebell Walk website, which is so helpful for planning your visit. The white wood anenomes appear first, followed by the bluebells - I love to try and capture a mix of both. It's definitely worth getting there as early as you can to beat the crowds, although there is so much space, it's very easy to wander away and find some peace and quiet.

The bluebell woods make the perfect backdrop for some portrait photography. We had some fun trying to get our little dog Misty to pose for the camera. With the help of some treats, we sort of managed it!

I've experimented with lots of different lenses over the years, but have settled on my 85mm f1.8 prime lens as my favourite lens to capture the magic of bluebells (paired with a full frame DSLR, the Canon 6D). I'm not one for wide angle shots, with lots of detail and everything in focus. Instead, I prefer to blur out the foreground and part of the background to try and capture the great swathes of purple and provide a dreamy, gentle feeling. It's not the best lens - and tends to be very soft when you are shooting with it wide open (a small number aperture), so most of these shots were taken somewhere around the f2.2 mark. They're not as sharp as I would like, so I will continue experimenting....

To get the blurry soft foreground, I crouched down low so that I had several rows of bluebells in front of me, and then focussed on a point roughly in the middle of the scene, using an aperture around f1.8-2.2 to create a shallow depth of field. This meant that the bluebells directly in front of me would be out of focus, as would the trees in the very far background, but the section in the middle that I focussed on, would be nice and sharp, drawing the eye there.

If you'd like to understand more about aperture and shallow depth of field, you might want to look at my post on How to get background blur in your photographs.

If you'd like to see more photos, I've collected my images from the last 3 years into an album on Flickr: Arlington Bluebell Walk - or you can click through the embedded slideshow below.

Arlington Bluebell Walk, East Sussex

I hope you enjoyed a wander through the Arlington Bluebell Walk. Do let me know if you have any questions in the comments below and I will do my best to answer them.

Arlington Bluebell Walk

Well, hello there folks. My apologies for a rather unplanned blogging break - the result of lots of DIY and garden projects whilst trying to balance things with my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I'm learning to be kinder to myself and to go gently when I need to, and to ask less of myself when things are challenging - so I hope you understand. I've got lots of photos and places to share with you, so hopefully I'll be back in my stride (in a gentle way) soon.

First up, is the very beautiful Arlington Bluebell Walk. If you live anywhere near East Sussex, I highly recommend a visit during late April/early May. They have a website with helpful updates on the current state of the bluebells, so you can plan your visit when they are at their peak. There is an entrance charge (£5 in 2016) which is donated to several charities each year. I was a little sceptical at first about paying to see a bluebell wood, when there are many places you can visit for free, but this place is very special indeed and well worth every penny - I have never seen a carpet of bluebells quite like it. Magical is the only word for it.

It's a huge site, with wide paths accessible to wheelchairs around the parts where the bluebell planting is at its densest. There are lots of other walks on narrower tracks around the surrounding farmland as well, if you fancy going further afield. You will also find refreshments, toilet facilities and some farm animals to meet before you enter the woods.

There are lots of places to sit and admire the views and listen to the beautiful birdsong as you wander along. But if you're anything like me, you might get a bit twitchy with a camera in your hand and so many beautiful photographs waiting to be taken. Literally every few steps is a new picture and a new delight.

This year was my second visit and I enjoyed pottering around with my 85mm f1.8 lens on my camera. I love to shoot wide open for maximum background blur to try and capture a little something of that bluebell magic. Bluebells can be a really tough subject to photograph as it can be tricky to get the colour balance right, and if you are lucky enough to visit on a sunny day, you will find the conditions very contrasty. My style is light and bright so many of my shots are intentionally overexposed and shadows brightened just enough to try and represent that magical light and experience.

Before the bluebells emerge, the woodlands are carpeted in white wood anemones - a beautiful sight in their own right - but the combination is really delightful.

The woodlands are full of interesting tree stumps, piles of logs and bendy branches to add interest and focal points for your photos - and they can provide a perfect setting for some portraiture photos.

One of my favourite things to do is to try and capture the sweeps of light through the trees, creating beautiful sparkling highlights and interesting shadows. I was lucky enough to visit on a gorgeous sunny day, so there was plenty of magical light.

Have you visited before? What are your favourite bluebell haunts? I'd love to hear.

More photos can be found on Flickr below, if you'd like to see more :)

Bluebell magic

Why I photograph & the magic of bluebells

The lovely Melanie of Geoffery and Grace asked me a little while ago why I photograph? A wonderful question. You can read Melanie's answer in her why I take photographs blog post. For my part, I think these beautiful bluebells do a good job of answering the question.

Quite simply, I love to capture and share the beauty around me. I think our world is pretty amazing. The strapline of my blog is "beautiful simplicity" and I think that sums up my photographic style nicely. I love to seek out special places and try and capture some essence of their magic and beauty to inspire and uplift. I'm not one for darkness and gritty reality (I think we all deal with enough of that in our day to day lives!), so many of my photos will be light and bright, full of space, with a soft, dreamy quality. I love to shoot wide open with a very shallow depth of field and often intentionally blow the highlights to try and recreate the same quality of light that only our eyes can see. A friend once said the sun always shines on Zoë's side of the beach :)

Photography is a compulsion for me. I have a strong urge to create and photography is one of my favourite outlets. I get twitchy if I haven't taken a photo for a while! I'm constantly seeing photo opportunities wherever I go. I don't think it stops me being present, in some ways I think it enhances my senses, as I try and take in and feel all that is around me. I totally lose myself in it. I guess it's that feeling that I try to capture in my photos, not a realistic copy of what was there, but my impression of what I saw and felt. The world through Zoë's rose tinted, dreamy spectacles.

I also think that capturing memories is a big part of why I photograph. I have a terrible memory and find so much slips away from me so easily. I love to look back through photo albums and remember happy times - often it's a small detail that sparks something off. I've been making a huge effort recently to organise my photos and my memories (whilst I still have them!) into some yearly photobooks. I've just completed the 2014 version and will share more about it in another post.

The photos above were taken on the Arlington Bluebell Walk on Bank Holiday Monday. It was my first visit and SUCH a magical place. I wish you could hear the birds singing and feel the sun on your face. The sight of those bluebell carpets, dotted with white wood anemones, glistening in the sunshine really does lift the spirits. The woodland was so well cared for and surrounded by countryside and it was so lovely to see so many people out and about enjoying our wonderful world (although I'm glad we got there early when the paths were quieter!).

Why do YOU photograph?

A bluebell wander

Well, hello there! I'm sorry it's been a while - I've been busy painting and decorating our house....lots and lots of white walls and doors and skirting! I've taken a short break from painting in order to keep my sanity, so I'm very pleased to finally be able to share some photos from a wander in some very beautiful bluebell woods back in April....

There really is something magical about a carpet of bluebells in pretty woodland with the sun streaming through the trees. This year we thought we would explore somewhere new and tried our luck with the Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve on the Oxfordshire/Buckinghamshire border - we weren't disappointed!

We stumbled across some fabulous twig wig wams - such a great idea! They proved very popular and of course we had to have a play too :) Photo of me taken by my lovely husband.

I took a Blythe with me for a little photoshoot too. We got a few strange looks, but escaped relatively unscathed, apart from some very sticky tree sap!! Her outfit was knitted by my lovely sister (her Etsy shop is On Blythe Street).

I really do think this is a pretty incredible sight - and what's so wonderful is that it is free for everyone to enjoy. I do so love living somewhere I can enjoy the seasons and the amazing shows that nature puts on - it has been a most fabulous and floral spring :)

I hope you all have a lovely week ahead - and hope to see you again soon :)

A week in the Lakes: epic views and carpets of bluebells

@alpower on top of the world

For once, we timed our holiday impeccably. After several rather soggy, grey "summer" trips, I reckon we were due a bit of sun. And sunshine we got - every day - in the Lake District!! Can you believe it? We were sooo lucky. And because everything was so late this year after such a long, cold winter, the bluebells were still out in force, making everywhere look even more beautiful. So, we made the most of it and were out walking every day. It was an absolute tonic and plentiful food for the soul. In true Zoe tradition, I took far too many photos - around 1400 actually (and that doesn't include my iPhone snaps!) - so I'm just going to show you a small selection here, you'll be pleased to know :)

Bluebell woods
Undulating bluebell lined paths

Our first day overwhelmed me with beauty and epic views. We started out in Rydal wandering through bluebell lined lanes (noting a marvellous looking tea shop for later!) and skirted Rydal water, rising up to pass Grasmere and up and up to the top of Loughrigg Fell. It felt pretty special to be munching my sandwiches overlooking such an amazing landscape. We then descended back in a meandering fashion to Ambelside and Rydal and I reckon we'd earnt our tea and cake that day!!

Walking through the bluebells
Bluebell slopes
Views from Loughrigg Fell
Photographing me photographing you - at Loughrigg Fell summit
Beautiful reflections

Day two started out grey but blossomed into a magnificent afternoon. It was a fabulous serendipitous day - we got a bit lost and parked in the wrong car park and stumbled upon the most beautiful woodland, which turned out to be 10 times nicer than what we were trying to find!! All the beautiful green you see below was a place called Glen Mary - a woodland walk to Tarn Hows, passing by the Tom Gill waterfall. All of this is very near Coniston.

Dive into the green
Tom Gill
Look up - the light is so beautiful!
Glen Mary

And afterwards, we found some fabulous sheep and lambs glowing in the afternoon sunshine and wandered onwards to Yew Tarn, where I found huge bright orange Rhododendrons nestling in the woodland next to a carpet of bluebells. All absolutely stunning and completely uplifting.

Bluebells and Rhododendrons
Rhododendrons in unexpected places

And then, on the way home, we passed by some more stunning scenery and gorgeous evening light bathing the countryside and just had to jump out the car to get a shot :)

Gorgeous evening light

I'll spare you day by day accounts of the rest as this post would never end! But I can highly recommend a circuit around Derwentwater, the walk from Elterwater to Loughrigg Tarn and the stunning Western Lakes - a very hairy drive, but so worth it - Buttermere is picture postcard perfect. So here are a few highlights from the rest of the trip...

Lashes of bluebells
Bluebell slopes
Woodland prettiness
More lush green rolling hills
Happy little lamb
Lush meadows - reminded me of a butter advert :)

And finally, after so many epic views, we spent some of our last day wandering around the beautiful Stagshaw Gardens in Ambleside and I swapped my wide angle lens for my macro lens and had a field day. Again, sorry for so many shots in this post - it's so hard to choose!

Sunshine in a flower
Happy, happy

If you've made it this far, I'm impressed! Sorry for breaking all the blog laws and making this way too long... If you haven't had enough, you can find the rest of my photos in my Lake District set on Flickr. I've still got tons to edit, so will be trickling them up over the coming weeks. If you ever get the chance to visit the Lake District, please do - it really is a magical place - I know I will be going back - so much more to see - and so good for the soul!