This Saturday sees the return of possibly the most quintessentially English Spring Fete in the District. Bluebell Day is back on saturday and, just as last year, there are wildlife and woodland activities to get involved with from dawn right through until dusk! I’ve been participating in Holyford Woods Local Nature Reserve’s annual Bluebell Day for a number of years now, and it never fails to charm me. There’s a special magic created by the location, a garden nestled in the woods, with cream teas and (fingers’ crossed) beautiful spring sunshine. The devoted band of local volunteers, members of the Holyford Woodland Trust, spring into action to produce cakes, preserves, a plant sale and serve up a mind-boggling number of cups of tea. Its one of those events where tables and chairs are borrowed from the church hall, and the sense of community is palpable. I feel so lucky to be involved! If you’ve been to Bluebell Day before, you’ll know exactly what I am saying. If you’ve never attended a Bluebell Day, shame on you! But there’s time to make things right. At 6.30am there will be a guided dawn chorus walk, followed by fresh bacon butties. If the birds are not an attraction in their own right, the bacon baps should drag even the most slovenly out of bed. At this time of year the woodland is alive with morning bird song, and with the trees only just bursting into leaf, you can still catch glimpses of the birds high overhead. The daytime events get started at 10am, with bushcraft skills workshops, local history walks, woodland flower and wildlife walks, and a nut detective challenge to keep the little ones amused. During the guided walks there is the chance to catch sight of the star of the show, bluebells, which are finally getting into the swing of things after a slow start! In recent years we have had concerns about the bluebells being exhausted by the time of the event. This year we have the opposite worry - will they be in flower? Blue shoots are visible, the beads of sweat are being wiped away. The gardens at Horriford Farm are opened for everyone to enjoy and people strew themselves across the lawns, soaking up the spring sunshine and enjoying a few refreshments. Towards the end of the afternoon a guided walk along the Stafford Brook will take people from the woodlands to the estuary, along a route not normally open for public access, and will provide an interesting perspective on the local area. The Stafford Brook is a tiny stream with a very important role in a number of our Local Nature Reserves locally, as it is directly responsible for Colyford Common being a saltmarsh. Rising in Holyford Woods, the brook runs along a flint gully, known as a goyle. It flows through the local fields towards the Axe Estuary, where it empties into the river at Colyford, forcing the sea wall to have a bridge rather than a culvert and ensuring that the tide continues to flood the common and keep it nice and salty. The daytime activity is over all too soon, however there is a final wild encounter to put in your diary, as the evening falls. Bats are an important feature of the biodiversity of Holyford Woods, and at 7.30pm we set off for a guided bat walk with a local expert. Pipistrelle bats whizz overhead, giving a great opportunity to explain how bat detectors work, translating the ultra-high frequency bat calls into an audible range. It is amazing how mesmeric hearing bats can be, and there is a lot you can read into the different calls and clicks to decipher what is going on in the bat’s world. There are nine different species of bat recorded in Holyford Woods, amongst them is the UK’s rarest mammal, the Bechstein’s bat. I’m not making any promises, but the walk will be led by one of the few people to have seen one here, I won’t jinx his chances any further! Booking is essential for the bat walk and dawn chorus, as places are limited for the sake of safety, however the rest of the day is on a drop-in basis, with most people popping along for an hour or two, to see some Spring flowers and others staying for the whole day. Parking for the event is at the Colyford Memorial Hall, with a free shuttle service running people down to the farm between 9.30am and 4.30pm. Whether you are a nature nut, a wildflower freak or just someone who enjoys a nice English garden tea, Bluebell Day is an event not to be missed... as long as the weather holds! For more information about Bluebell Day or any other East Devon District Council Countryside Service Event, contact the service on 01395 517557.