Tuesday 5 May 2009

Bluebells and a railway ... and a tornado?

Dear Mr Postman .. Mum and I were thinking that you really must enjoy your delivery rounds at this time of year .. especially your rural rides .. I've been reminding my Ma about the bluebell and whitebell woods we had at home .. a small copse .. which became full of snowdrops, daffodils, celandine and then the blue and white bells at this time of year ..

Bluebell woods are so wonderful for having a spring meander or walk .. the great swathes of blue interspersed with greenery, where it hasn't been overrun by the flowers popping through, the canopy of trees almost in full leaf, but with the dappled sun still finding its way through .. and the chiff chaffs, blackbirds, tits, wrens, robins .. all singing away as birdsong is now at its peak - can you recognise any of the songs? The blackbird is up really early - before dawn .. singing away in his short deliberate phrases, with a much deeper and fruitier sound .. lovely to listen to.

The common (English) bluebell (see picture) is a protected species .. and the deep blue scented flowers are borne only on one side of the stem, with the top flower head bending right over. It is smaller than its hybridised cousin, mostly imported originally from Spain. The English bluebell woods are found throughout England and they are a common indicator species for ancient woodland and are likely to date back to at least 1600, still in Elizabeth I's time .. perhaps hunted through by her father Henry VIII and his court?

The Spanish bluebell now threatens our common bluebell .. it is fairly easily distinguishable, as the flower stem does not curl over so much and the flowers are somewhat larger, all around the stem and a paler blue, while there is no scent. The Spanish bluebell is native to the Iberian peninsula.

The bluebell railway - 9 miles - runs through the north part of Sussex .. and at this time of year travels through some of these ancient woodlands in Sheffield Park, Sussex. Steam trains operate on the heritage line - saved, managed and run by volunteers, under the banner of the Bluebell Preservation Society.

It is an amazing little part of our English heritage saved for the future .. they have managed to preserve 30+ locomotives and a collection of almost 150 carriages and wagons, most of them from the time before and between the two world wars: and in 1960 it became the first preserved standard guage steam-operated passenger railway in the world. A number of steam locomotives were preserved before the final cessation of steam service on the British mainline railways in 1968.

The steam train is making a come back .. in February 2009 the Tornado Steam Train arrived from Darlington in the north east at King's Cross .. the first steam locomotive to be built in Britain for almost 50 years has arrived in London. For steam train lovers, apple green colour lovers, small boys who love the poop poop whistle .. the video (1 min 40 sec) is worth a watch .. click on the Telegraph link here and to read the article.

Sheffield Park is a wonderful parkland estate, now owned by the National Trust, but originally was mentioned in the Domesday book and Henry VIII hunted and was entertained here. Its gardens were designed by Capability Brown, a great landscape architect, in the 1700s; but it is now known for its magnificent planting of trees selected for their autumn colour, including many Black Tupelos - native to North America.

The Bluebell Preservation Society continues in its restoration projects .. has purchased the trackbed of the abandoned line and continues with its long term future of development. The Bluebell Railway has been used for numerous television and film locations .. including The Railway Children, the Dirty Dozen sequel in 1984 with Lee Marvin, two Ken Russell films - for further information of the films, and on the Bluebell Railway see Wikipedia article here.

The picture of the restored Metropolitan carriages - shows why they were awarded the Heritage Carriage Award in 2006/7 - and are unique as a close-coupled set of vintage carriages.

No 34059 Sir Archibald Sinclair. Relaunched and renamed on 24th April, and entered public service on 25 April 2009 after a ten-year rebuild from Barry condition. 34059 is the only Rebuilt Battle of Britain Class locomotive to steam in preservation.

The information on the Bluebell Railway came from the Wikipedia entry, together with the pictures of the carriages and number 34059.

Thank you Mr Postman for this information .. my mother will be most interested and we can remember the steam train between St Erth and St Ives in Cornwall .. see my post on 28 February .. and there's a video to watch too .. she just loves her flowers and had a Spanish bluebell brought to her .. sadly they don't last .. and while she's in the hospital - they don't allow flowers .. which is such a pity.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
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positively present said...

WOW. Those images of the bluebells are beautiful. I would love to have some of those by my bedside right now (I'm home sick). As always, I enjoyed your post. Beautiful!

Giovanna Garcia said...

What a wonderful spring photo of the bluebells, and I enjoyed the piece of history behind it.... :-)
Thank you,
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than no Action

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Dani .. thanks for your thoughts .. it just is such a wonderful time of year here .. - sorry they don't travel that well .. otherwise I'd send you some over!!

Just glad you were able to have a break from the serious stuff .. your blog is wonderful ..

Thank you - Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Gio .. thanks for the comment .. someone I know would love the pooh pooh whistle of the train!! The colours do come over .. and the history is just so incredible - how everything links across ..

Thanks - Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Daphne @ Joyful Days said...


I loved the picture, and learnt something today - I didn't realise that some bluebells I see may be Spanish and not English. You know, you should consider a career in education!

Marketing Unscrambled, Home edition said...

Hilary, The photos are lovely. Those bluebells are brilliant. I love the steam trains. Thanks for putting them both together. Great job.
Dan and Deanna "Marketing Unscrambled"

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Daphne .. thanks so much .. glad you liked the pictures .. I'm too eclectic .. but Mum and I have always loved learning different things and chatting about them. Then we all learn!

Many thanks -
Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Dan & Deanna .. glad you liked the pictures. The steam train line .. is quite incredible .. and the volunteers deserve all the credit they can get. The line is fabulous too & the journey in the carriages is fun.

I hope everyone watches the apple green engine in The Telegraph video .. via the link.

Thanks - Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Believe Achieve - Hugo and Roxanne said...

Hi Hilary,

I must agree with everyone...the photos are very beautiful!

Hugo and I would love one day when our kiddos are alitte older to travel by train in your neck of the woods. A train ride through the English countryside would be Fantastic!

Thanks for sharing another great piece of history. :-)

Many Blessings....
Roxanne ~ Believe Achieve

Unknown said...

Hello Hilary,

It is the best season for flowers now. Your bluebell picture is fantastik. I love blue flowers. In Hokkaido, Japan, there was a park of lavender, full of blue in front of my eyes, I remember. Your post reminded the view.

Thank you for your post.
Shaw Funami
Fill the Missing Link

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Roxanne and Hugo .. I'd love to see you here .. lots to show you, lots of steam train rides - when you're ready!! Invitation extended and open ...

Hope Noa enjoyed the train ride?? and the apple green locomotive and the whistle ..

Thanks for enjoying with me ..
Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Shaw .. thanks for visiting .. yes lavender beds are just so wonderful and they have that fresh sage-lavender scent before they're picked for the actual oils. Hokkaido sounds great ..

Did you see my previous post on lavender and the chrysanthemum .. 24 March .. re Japan & China!

Thanks for visiting and enjoying the pics ..
Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Peter Baca said...

Hi Hilary,

Enjoyed the classic trains in your post! Interesting that they are restoring the steam trains!

Your post remined me of a restored train ride that we were on at the Grand Canyon...it was fun!

Best Regards

Pete Baca
The Car Enthusiast Online

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Peter .. thanks .. and I'm glad you enjoyed the locomotives bit .. isn't it great they're restoring steam trains .. I loved the apple green colour for the engine ..

Oh great .. something I can do sometime when I get to see the Grand Canyon ..

Thanks for visiting ..
Hilary Melton-Butcher
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