Witches’ thimbles. Cuckoo’s boots. Granfer griggles. Whatever you like to call this woodland beauty, there is nothing more quintessentially British than our native bluebell in spring. In the grounds of Grade II-listed Rode Hall in Cheshire, magical Old Wood provides the setting for a stunning bluebell display.
Rode Estate has been owned by the Wilbraham family since 1669. The Hall is full of Georgian charm with a stunning collection of portraits, Gillow furniture and porcelain, while the tranquil 10-acre gardens, set among sheep-grazed pasture, offer bluebell walks from April to May.
Wildlife at Rode Hall
Follow the path that winds from the house, through bushes and trees with the sweet smell of Daphne, past a pool with woven willow sculptures and alongside Tunnel Boathouse to Rode Pool, created in 1800 by Cheshire-based landscapist John Webb. Look out for ‘Old Nog’: the heronry on Birthday Island. Herons have been nesting here since the 1960s, and February to March sees experienced males restoring old twiggy platforms that teeter in the trees ready for the females to lay their eggs. Thanks to a plentiful stock of fish in Rode Pool, the site supports 40–50 nests.
Retrace your steps and turn right up the slope through the trees in Old Wood. Bluebells woven with fairy enchantment line the path – a bluebell rings, the fairies come. With their unique scent and delicate flower structure, bluebells reach their greatest densities here in a sweep of violet blue, providing valuable food for bees, butterflies and hoverflies.
The path drops down into a hollow. Search for the grotto hidden among shrubbery; the interior is decorated with shell and pebble-work. Flagged paths wind away to a wild area planted with many rhododendrons, azaleas and hellebores. The grounds include a formal rose garden, yew hedging and the Colonel’s Walk lined with impressive laburnum arches.
Rode Hall Kitchen Gardens
Visit the two-acre walled kitchen garden, where vegetables and fruit are grown in abundance and head gardener Kelvin Archer tends his award-winning gooseberries. The Courtyard Tearoom, which serves homemade lunches (delicious quiche), cakes and cream teas, uses the produce grown.
A kiosk sells chutneys and jams to afford you a little jar of scrumptiousness to take with you as a reminder of a couple of hours well spent among our wonderful native bluebells.