On two weekends in early May, the National Trust plans to charge visitors a small amount to enter the woodlands at Dockey Wood on the 2,000 hectare Ashridge Estate in Hertfordshire. Entrance for National Trust members will be free.
Dockey Wood is noted for its spectacular bluebell displays, with thousands coming into bloom at the end of April and early May. However, in recent years large visitor numbers has led to trampling of the flowers and compaction of the soils – which has in turn meant that bluebell numbers are declining.
The charge – £3 for adults and £1 for children over the age of five – will be made over two weekends: 30th April – 2nd May and 7th – 8th May, 10:00-16:00. Entry will be free for members of the National Trust.
The Trust has created a designated visitor route through the bluebells in a bid to offer them further protection. Fencing has also been erected at the entrance to the woods to prevent erosion to the woodland’s bank and ditch.
The money raised from entrance fees over the two weekends will go directly towards conservation of wild flowers and trees at Dockey Wood and the wider Ashridge Estate.
Lawrence Trowbridge, Lead Ranger at the Ashridge Estate, said: ‘The countryside at Ashridge is free and it can be accessed at any time, any day of the year.
‘We want to ensure that as many visitors as possible can experience the bluebells at Dockey Wood, while also protecting them for future visitors to enjoy.
‘Over the past few years we’ve noticed that the bluebells are being damaged by trampling and the soil that they grow in is being compacted. This means that the overall numbers of bluebells are reducing, which is concerning. The measures we are taking are all about conserving this wonderful spectacle for many years to come.’
Lalenya Kukielka, Visitor Experience Manager at Ashridge Estate, told the Daily Telegraph: ‘We see around 2,000 cars per day – although not all to Dockey Wood – at weekends in peak bluebell season. The popularity of bluebells and the numbers of visitors at bluebell time has definitely increased in recent years.
‘I took one phone call today from a lady from Lichtenstein who was travelling to Ashridge to see the bluebells. Local photographers advertise the bluebell woods as a backdrop for family portraits and the visitor centre takes many enquiries about large group visits.
‘The reaction to our measures to manage footfall at Dockey Wood has been reassuringly positive. Most people, particularly those who come regularly to Ashridge understand that something needed to be done to protect the bluebells.’
About Ashridge Estate
Ashridge is a 2,000 hectare estate in the Chiltern Hills, comprising woodland, commons and chalk downland. Entrance to this countryside estate is free to all visitors.
Visitors can see Bluebells free of charge elsewhere on the Ashridge Estate. Download our Bluebell Walk here: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ashridge-estate/trails/three-in-one-bluebell-walk-at-ashridge.
Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta is a plant particularly associated with ancient woodland where it may dominate the woodland floor in spring to produce carpets of violet–blue flowers. It is protected under UK law. Bluebells tend to grow in lightly acid soils and to get the most of the spring sunshine, they flower quickly – just before the trees growing above them are in full leaf. They can grow quickly during this period by using the nutrients stored in their bulbs. As bluebells are adapted to woodlands, the young shoots are able to penetrate through a thick layer of leaf litter found on the woodland floor. They cannot however penetrate heavily compacted soils and the bulbs eventually die.
Visitors can see Bluebells at many National Trust places. Late April and early May is the best time to see these wild flowers. Find a Bluebell wood near you at https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lists/bluebell-woods-near-you.
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