Chatsworth House | Derbyshire | England | Pride & Prejudice

Can English Bluebells Be Found in a Fading Season?

Chesterfield Canal

Wildflowers of Chesterfield Canal | South Derbyshire | England
Wildflowers of Chesterfield Canal

The only reason I was looking for bluebells on this trip, was because it has ‘blue’ in the name.

I avoided travel blogs at the time, because I never could seem to relate to the sorts of trips that other people like to take. They never seem to pop up very much when I search for the places I happened to be going to. But I did find out that bluebells were supposed to be out of season by June. That they seem to be found less and less and are at risk of being lost in England. And that there is a walk I could do in Chesterfield that usually has them.

Chesterfield was an easy drive from Barnsley.

Driving in England

It was my first time driving a hybrid. I had not asked for one, since the option wasn’t given in the booking site. But it did please me that the agency gave me one because it would

a) save me fuel cash (not to mention carbon offset trip surcharge), and

b) make me feel less guilty about my driving-heavy trip.

I admit it was weird starting the car with a button, and how quiet it was. But I got used to that very quickly. And I certainly liked it that I drove all day every day for nearly a week, driving with near-total fuel impunity clocking a tremendous mileage up and down the Peak District hills – on a single tank of fuel. If I remember right, it was easily twice – possibly thrice – the efficiency of my Yaris, which is already a pretty efficient gasoline car.

Driving in England for a Malaysian is so very relaxing. I’m not kidding. Driving in Malaysia is a very exhausting affair, which I never really noticed until all its burdens were removed. You must constantly be watchful of others, because any random motorist or motorcyclist could go in any direction. Signal lights may tell the truth, or may effectively be deceptive decoys. Turnoffs and exits can be so close together in the dense cities and suburbs that you really have to process a lot of information quickly to pick the right one. It really can drain you out.

By contrast, I could drive all day every day in the middle of England and still feel up to more at the end.

Tapton Lock for bluebells

Arch bridge over footpath | Chesterfield Canal | Derbyshire | England
Arch bridge over footpath
Footpath mosaic | Chesterfield Canal | South Derbyshire | England
Footpath dragonfly mosaic
Bank of thistles | Chesterfield Canal | South Derbyshire | England
Bank of thistles along the walk

 

 

 

 

I parked at the limited parking area at Tapton Lock, where the Visitor’s Centre is. It was also fairly close to the part of the Chesterfield Canal that was supposed to have the bluebells.

The footpath hugs the canal itself, and occasionally there would be a footbridge to link the two sides of the canal. It was morning and there were other walkers around, some of whom were walking their dogs. Sometimes, there would be paths that snake around the back of the paved footpath, and these would be more shaded, banked by wildflowers and shrubs.

The Bluebank Loop | signpost | Chesterfield Canal | Derbyshire, England
The Bluebank Loop
Stream by Bluebank Loop | Chesterfield Canal | South Derbyshire | England
Stream by the Bluebank Loop

 

 

 

 

 

I brought a printed map of where I wanted to go, and eventually found the marker for the Bluebank Loop.

This path took me to a lovely walk, well shaded in a lot of places, and there’s a stream sort of parallel to the canal that I could approach at some points.

There were many kinds of wildflowers along the way. Many of them were blue, which was gratifying. But there were no longer any bluebells. I could see what could have been bluebells, but they were well on the way to withering for me to be sure.

So I finished the loop and re-emerged onto the sunny main footpath by the canal. It was disappointing.

An inkling of the inexplicable

I’ve wandered and walked about in a lot of places. The places have been widely different from each other, and I’ve felt differently while there. But generally how I’ve felt about myself in relation to the place, has typically been the same. People tend to approach me more or less similarly, to a lesser or greater extent knowing that I’m not from there.

There’s a way that people approach you when they’re expecting you to be foreign, that has nothing to do with whether they like foreigners in general. Subconsciously we all start to operate on how we see ourselves in relation to them. And how we want them to see us in relation to them. Sometimes we talk slower, or use more standard language than we would with a fellow local. Sometimes we become over-friendly, or self-conscious. Or we could become defensive, or apologetic – for no apparent reason.

So, I’m used to being recognised as foreign by sight when outside my own region. It’s not just your face, but things like the way you carry yourself, the kind of fashion you choose for the same clothing item, etc. And I well know the way people speak to you when they’re expecting you need help to understand.

The strange case of the English

As an aside, one of the most remarkable things about the English, is how intensely local-aware they are. I mean, every nation is, but the precision of the English is something else.

Anywhere else I know, you could maybe tell someone is from a certain state or region, from the way they speak the language. Because of regional variations in dialect and speaking style. At best, you can get down to district, if you’re good at this stuff.

But it seems any Englishman can distinguish to the granularity of one village from another – sometimes places within sight of each other – from how someone speaks. This is true even if they have never been to that place, nor perhaps even been outside their own county. Explain this miracle to me. The Englishmen I’ve met have all acknowledged this ability. None of them thought it was anything but normal. But it is so not. End digression.

Inclusion

Ducks sunning by the canal lock | Chesterfield Canal | South Derbyshire | England
Ducks sunning by the canal lock

For reasons I do not fathom, English people – especially abroad and a bit older than me – tend to give me ‘honorary admission’. It is not just because I’m a competent Anglophone, because I do not get this ‘adopted family’ treatment from other English-speaking nations.

But this usually does not apply in England itself, and in more rural parts, where local distinctions are more clearly marked out.

So I was surprised when people on the walk greeted me, asked me for the time, etc. as if I belonged there. Using the local accent, assuming I would know things. I nearly looked for my reflection, just to check that I haven’t transformed. Perhaps it’s not usual for tourists to be wandering Tapton Lock.

It’s refreshing. It gave me a better understanding of why that friend of mine has a rather marked, innocent openness to him, unlike the usually more cynical Britons. Still, post-Brexit I wonder if this would still happen.

The plague village

Street in Eyam | Plague village | Peak District | Derbyshire | England
Street in Eyam, the plague village

It was during a day driving around the interesting spots around the Peak District that I found them.

My former friend-colleague who was from here, has a slightly morbid frame of mind. His local stories revolve around that time there was a lady serial killer, and the field she buried the children in that I could go to (I diplomatically demurred), and that time when his train commute ran over a dead body on the tracks. But we suited each other perfectly, since I am very partial to eccentricity.

So it’s no surprise that he suggested I check out Eyam.

Bluebells by stone wall | Eyam | Peak District | Derbyshire | England
Bluebells at last

It is a small village within the national park. The plague arrived to this part of England, to Eyam, whose villagers then opted to make the sacrifice of isolating themselves. There are good plaques all over this little village, explaining the history and other curious things about the place.

While wandering about this village, I found what I was looking for. Bluebells.

Just a spot of them, in the shade of a stone wall, but still blooming and fresh. I was no longer disappointed.

Chatsworth House

I thought no more of bluebells after that. I continued with the rest of my itinerary until I got to Chatsworth House, which I saved for last. Even though my friend placed it at the top.

Gravel walk in Chatsworth | Derbyshire | England
Gravel walk in Chatsworth

This is the residence of the Duke of Devonshire, even though it is in Derbyshire and nowhere near Devonshire.

He’s really proud of such a magnificent piece of real estate being in his region, and I have to admit I can see why. Although personally I prefer the grounds to the interior of the house. The renowned landscape designer for many of these aristocratic homes, ‘Capability’ Brown, really deserves his nickname.

I can also see why it was used as the location for Pemberley, of Pride & Prejudice fame. The place really can evoke that ‘OMG, Mr. Darcy owns all of this??!??’ surprise reaction.

The glade of bluebells

Landscape grounds in Chatsworth | Derbyshire | England
Grounds of Chatsworth House

The day that I chose for Chatsworth was overcast. It was a shame because I belatedly realised that there were so many walks worth doing in its massive grounds, but I only had a day left, and the photos are going to look… er, authentically English.

So I prioritised and went on a ramble to enjoy the picturesque views around the house. It took me to this dramatic walk flanked by tall green trees that led to a sort of chalice sculpture at the end. Looking for bluebells | Derbyshire | England | Peak District

As I walked I happened to glance across through the trunks of the trees, and realised that there were lush glades beyond them. There seemed to be spots of blue winking from the middle of one of them.

I veered off the path and went into the glade. It was soft and wet. But I was close enough to see the cascade of bells. I stepped carefully in the muddy ground to get closer.

There was a glade of them. Near the end of my week of wandering, I found a glade of bluebells. In the place I had put to last.

Story of my life. All the things I look for, seem to come only at long last. And the things I don’t look for, fall into my hand.

Glade of bluebells | Chatsworth House | Derbyshire | England

19 thoughts on “Can English Bluebells Be Found in a Fading Season?

  1. What a trip! The glade of bluebells. And the history and story of the plague village. I felt intrigued by your friend’s story of the serial killer as well. But not sure if I would like to visit that place in person!!

    1. Me neither! I did notify him that his hometown of Chesterfield now has a zombie themed paintball facility though.

  2. I didn’t know it was crazy to drive in Malaysia. I’ve driven in Southeast Asia and it’s good to have some order when you do. Sometimes when you look for something you don’t find it and you stumble upon it later.

  3. This is a dreamy trip. Straight out of a Wordsworth poem. The English countryside is so lovely and flowers blooming in the wild are a boon to earth. The post is as refreshing as the blooming flowers.

  4. I am always on the hunt for flowers! We just finished cherry blossom season here but I am still pulling over when I find trees. I smiled to myself when you were talking about your friend. I too like to surround myself with eccentrics. 🙂

  5. How interesting that the English can tell where another English is from right down to the village – that’s incredible! And I am so glad that you got the chance to see Bluebells…a nice glade of them. It’s a good thing you went off the beaten track!

  6. It’s lovely that you explored places in the UK that a lot of tourists will skip, in favour of, as you say, the Mecca of London, and it’s contemporaries Cambridge and Oxford. Stately homes still take my breath away, and I’m British.

  7. Wow..what an interesting fact that English can tell about each other so much…And coming to your trip..it seems like a fairyland that you are wandering into. I am eager to explore this part of the world and your post just increased my eagerness

  8. I give you so much credit for doing all that to find bluebells. While I think flowers are great, I don’t think I would have done all that just to see a flower. But thank you for doing it so that I can hear your beautiful story and see your lovely pictures.

    1. 🙂 I don’t know why I do things sometimes. I think it’s just when a notion takes my fancy, and then it becomes a mission. It’s all those computer games in childhood probably made me like this. LOL

    1. I know right? I like how this region has that creepy/not creepy vibe. It reminds me of Midsomer Murders, if you know the show. The most wholesome English countryside, yet apparently full of murderers to sustain so many murder mystery episodes…

  9. What a dreamy trip ! The history of Eyam is a very intriguing, thought-provoking study of human behavior and sacrifice, science and biology, population statistics, immunity and genealogy. It’s so funny that the English can tell where another English is from right down to the village :-). And the English countryside is so lovely when flowers are blooming in the wild ! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  10. Lovely photos – I have lived in the UK for a little over two years and my favorite walks have always been June time when the blue bells are out 🙂 Also YES to what you say about the English being “local-aware” – is that an official term? If not it should be!! When I first moved here I just figured there was “posh english” and “cockney” but it seemed, like you say, that they could legitimately tell one village’s dialect from the next. I am actually getting better at it myself – I can tell if someone’s from the Southwest, and if they are from my city or somewhere else in the southwest. I still can’t copy their accent myself but my ears have gotten the hang of it!

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