One of the most breathtaking natural spectacles is unfolding in ancient woodlands across the West Midlands as bluebells begin to burst into colour.
And with the mildest February for a decade, bluebell crops are blooming several weeks earlier than usual – although it could be short lived.
National Trust naturalist Matthew Oates said the lack of frost in February and March has speeded up the development of the bluebells and the dry weather has slowed the spring grass growth, leaving bluebells relatively free from competition and paving the way for good displays of the blue carpets of flowers in woodlands.
But a lack of rain could stunt some bluebells and with spring arriving “in a rush”, displays could be short and sweet.
“Easter weekend looks set to be the peak time to see bluebells but this will vary depending on aspect,” Mr Oates said. “On high ground and on north-facing slopes the flowering will be later.”
To help ensure bluebell displays are the best they can be, The Wildlife Trusts across the region have been managing woodland reserves carefully through practices such as coppicing.
Paul Wilkinson, head of Living Landscape for The Wildlife Trusts, said: “Bluebell carpets alone are a tremendous spectacle. And they come hand in hand with a profusion of other wildflowers such as wood anemones, ramsons and celandine, along with busy birds building nests and forming partnership bonds.
"This combination makes a trip to a Wildlife Trust woodland in spring the ideal way to take time out, reflect on nature’s beauty and appreciate what a healthy natural environment has to offer.”
On Sunday, The Worcestershire Wildlife Trust owned Knapp and Papermill, nestled in the Leigh Brook Valley near Alfrick Pound, Worcester, hosts an open day where the annual carpets of bluebells are expected to be showing just in time for the event.
Reserve warden, Fergus Henderson, said: “We’re hoping our bluebells will just be coming into flower for the open day – they won’t be in full bloom but that won’t detract from the beauty of the reserve.”
Also in Worcestershire, an open day takes place at one of the county’s most ancient woods, Tiddesley Wood, near Pershore on May 1, timed to coincide with the carpets of bluebells coming into bloom.
In Staffordshire, Georges Hayes, Longdon, near Lichfield and Parrot’s Drumble, Talke Pits, near Newcastle-under-Lyme are two of the best places to see bluebells this spring.
Parrot’s Drumble is one of Staffordshire Wildlife Trust’s finest ancient woodland nature reserves where as well as the sea of bluebells.
In spring you will also see dog’s mercury, wood anemone, yellow archangel and wood sorrel.
In Warwickshire, Ryton Woods, near Coventry, an ancient coppice managed by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, and Clowes Wood, are both expected to be good places to see bluebells.
In the past, the flowering of bluebells has occurred in a Mexican wave effect across the country starting in the South-west, but in recent years has become more patchy and dependent on their location.
This year, the National Trust is running an interactive bluebell watch, which will let people give sightings of bluebells in their area on social networking site Twitter.
This will help track the emergence of flowers across the country when they are at their peak.
More places to see bluebells this spring
* Crackley Wood, north of Kenilworth
* Cotton Dell, Oakamoor, Staffordshire Moorlands
* Jackson’s Coppice and Marsh, near Eccleshall, Staffordshire
* Beaconwood and the Winsel, three miles north of Bromsgrove.
* Trench Wood, near Droitwich.
* Chaddesley Wood, four miles from Bromsgrove on the Kidderminster Road.
* The Lickey Hills, Birmingham