There are moments in life that simply knock the rust off your soul. You feel connected to the world and realize you are witnessing something truly magnificent. One such experience is photographing bluebells in the spring. In the faint dusk light, I walked into the bluebell forest and the overwhelming scent of hyacinth suddenly embraced me. As I quietly wandered, I ran across deer looking for their breakfast without any fear of my presence. I listened to the birds singing overhead. For a moment, I felt like Snow White minus the evil queen and poisonous apple. That morning was so surreal. If someone told me a unicorn was prancing about, I would have believed them. However, there is always another side to consider.
After the sun’s rays appeared above the horizon, the crowds began to descend upon my meditative trance. After a few more hours of people-watching, I sat near a picnic spot and was overcome with sadness. The internet made this once quiet spot enjoyed by locals into an attraction for droves of tourists. Those who manage the forest must be overwhelmed. Despite the town posting signs pleading for people to remain on the trails, I watched countless individuals sneak into the middle of the bluebell fields to take their “epic selfie” shot. My sadness stems from the knowledge that ONCE TRAMPLED, THE BLUEBELL TAKES 5-7 YEARS TO REGROW.
After a few consecutive years of visiting the forest, it is clear that these small paths of destruction where people walked off the main trails are expanding with each passing year. People see these tiny paths and think it is okay for them to walk there since there are no flowers (even with signs right in front of them). Whether they know it or not, each footstep prolongs the bluebell’s return as well as creates a further expansion of the damage.
This year I didn’t make it to the forest. Actually, I reside on a different continent now. Therefore, I know it will be a few years before I return to bluebell bliss, if ever. Even so, the hope remains that our human admiration for nature’s beauty and an effort to educate visitors will help preserve this piece of heaven. There are some instances where it isn’t worth getting the shot. I can only hope a silver lining of the pandemic was that this place got a kick-start to its recovery.