Extraordinary magic is at play in the semi ancient woodland of Speke Hall, an outstanding Tudor mansion situated on the shores of the River Mersey and just a few miles from the vibrant city centre of Liverpool.
The picture book hall is a fairytale wattle and daub building, dating from the 1500s. And while a visit to the characterful and historic interior is very special, for me the experience of the bluebell wood is out of this world!
I choose to go when the woods are quiet, when sweet birdsong fills the air and unseen fairies might dance through fresh green fronds of unfolding fern.
In the month of May a special adventure is to follow weaving paths through a scented ocean of blue. Soon the Bell Tree appears. Breathtaking! The sculptural sound installation is the joyful creation of artist Serena Korda. Bedecked with 300 porcelain bells, the ancient oak rises out of a blue haze. The iridescent bluebells are associated traditionally with constancy, sorrow and grief.
Their magic is slow to colonise; the journey from seed to bloom is 5-7 years. When the leaves are crushed underfoot by careless walkers, the photosynthesis process to produce food is impaired. The plant may never recover and so it is important to keep to paths, and to be aware also that it is against the law to intentionally pick, uproot or destroy bluebells.
The experience is utterly dreamy! The Bell Tree enchants and the sweet bluebell ocean is deeply intoxicating!
Artist Serena Korda explains that her creation is designed to celebrate the seasons and transform anyone who sees it into a nature spirit. I love that concept!
The wonderful experience feels like tripping through a picture book! Turn the page to step out of the woodland and into the formal garden where the magnificent Tudor hall is revealed. Discover inside secret priest’s holes and glorious Jacobean and Victorian furnishings.
The hall survives and is available to visit largely due to the determination of Adelaide Watt who inherited the estate as a young girl.
On her 21st birthday in 1878 she assumed management of the property, grounds and 17 farms. A fascinating woman and a progressive landowner, Adelaide had clear ideas of what she wanted to achieve. Her tenants were expected to comply with her request to attend church and vote Conservative!
Adelaide was determined and capable, undaunted by Victorian society dominated by men. She was informed and took great care to be personally involved in any developments that might impact her riverside estate, including the Manchester Ship Canal. She opposed the route of the project fearing that it would impact the currents of the River Mersey. Accordingly changes were made.
Following Adelaide’s death, Speke Hall was managed by her butler, Thomas Watmore and other house staff. In 1942 the magnificent estate was passed on to the National Trust.