I heard a ringing bluebell, now I’m running for my life…

It is finally that time of year.

After waiting for several months for the opportunity to grab some shots for the cover of The Bluebell Informant, I finally managed it today.

The sun was out; it was a nice Sunday afternoon and spring is most definitely here. So Gemma and I headed down to a woodland close to Edenbridge, Staffhurst Wood, to snap some shots of the bluebells.

Apart from being a significant natural site, boasting 200 species of flora and 288 species of moth fauna (and of course being a site famous for its bluebells), Staffhurst Wood also shares another link with The Bluebell InformantIMG_2652

During the second world war, the woodland was used as an ammunition dump. Reportedly two bombs fell on the area during this time and vast amounts of the wildwood, which had stood on the spot for centuries (if not millennia), was felled to allow the military to use the site.

Now, of course, it has been returned to its natural glory – but this part of Stafford Wood’s history is echoed in the setting of The Bluebell Informant.

In the novel, DS Giles is sent down to Edenbridge to investigate a dead body found resting up against an old, second world war pillbox. The path leading up to his body is marked by a carpet of bluebells and, for Giles at least, the murder bears the hallmarks of a serial killer she thought was long gone…

The Bluebell Killer

A faceless murderer who doesn’t stick to a set method of killing people…

All he cares about is leaving a cutting of bluebells on his victims…

It sounds a little creepy, but this idea is very much based on an idea that survived through British folklore. Bluebells, likes so many other plants, had a variety of uses, both for humans and the animal and fantasy kingdoms and, as I embroiled myself in my research of this plant, I found myself surprised at some of the facts I unearthed…

So, without further ado, here is my top five facts about bluebells and the sometimes chilling stories associated with them…

  1. To hear a bluebell ringing is to walk with death…

According to folklore, hearing a bluebell ringing is never a good sign. The story varies from place to place, but they all agree that if you hear a bluebell ring, someone is going to die. Bizarrely though, some believed that if you wear a wreath of bluebells around your neck, you would be compelled to only speak the truth…

That being the case, I think our politicians should wear bluebell flowers round their necks all the time…

Just in case.

2. Bluebells make good glue 

Throughout the centuries, bluebells had been used to make glue. Bluebell sap was used to bind pages to the spines of books and, in the Bronze Age, bluebell glue was used to attach feathers to arrows. With one of those flying at you, I can now understand why ringing bluebells was seen as an omen of death…

3. You can’t pick a bluebell

IMG_2719.JPGUnder UK law, bluebells are classified as a protected species. As such, you are not allowed to uproot bluebells and any horticultural suppliers wanting to sell the plant have to apply for a licence and be able to demonstrate that they are collecting them from sustainable sources. Moreover, gardeners have to take special care to ensure that they don’t plant the non-native Spanish variety of bluebells near to native bluebell populations as the two will interbreed which would eventually lead to the extinction of our wild bluebells…

4. Bluebells are a good fashion accessory and could save your life

Well, sort of. In the Victorian era, bluebells were crushed to make starch which was then used to help stiffen the ruffs of the people’s collars and sleeves. On a slightly different note, the bulbs of bluebells were sometimes used in folk medicine and some extracts from the plant are similar to compounds tested for use in battling cancer and HIV.

5. Bluebells and fairies walk hand in hand

Again back to folklore. Back in a time when forests were seen as forbidding places – dark, creepy areas where no one would dare to tread, bluebells were associated with fairy enchantments. In fact, according to some of the tales, the reason why you die when you hear a bluebell ring, is because the ringing bluebells were used to summon fairies to gatherings – presumably the fairies didn’t like being spied upon by their human counterparts…

Anyway, that’s all for today. I hope you enjoyed this random fact-fest about bluebells. If you were looking carefully, you might have read a few hints about what to expect in The Bluebell Informant

Or maybe not…

You’ll just have to read it and find out.

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