Hailsham Town Crier Geoff Rowe formally kicked off the opening ceremony for Arlington Bluebell Walk for its 42nd year of opening to the public to raise funds for local charities, reading Emily Bronte’s bluebell poem and leading a toast to spring 2014.
John McCutchan, Farmer at Bates Green Farm near Hailsham, who created the walks and looks after the wood, cut a ribbon to open the woods early this year, as they are already a sea of white wood anemones and the bluebells have started to open already.
He said, “I believe we may see one of the most spectacular bluebell displays ever this year.”
The Arlington Bluebell Walk, which takes in three working farms, has been delighting countryside lovers and raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for Sussex charities since it first opened in 1972. There are seven different walks to try in the 23 acre wood, including the graveled Blue Walk, which gives access to mobility scooters, wheelchairs and pushchairs. Mobility scooters are also available to borrow free of charge.
Seventeen charities will take part in the 2014 event, with Demelza Children’s Hospice in East Sussex first in line, fundraising by providing food and drink to walkers. To date, the Arlington Bluebell Walk has raised more than £500,000 (todays value) for 60 local causes since the attraction opened to the public 42 years ago.
John McCutchan, who farms the land where the Bluebell Wood is and created the Bluebell Walk, said: “Bluebells signify that spring has well and truly arrived and warmer weather is on its way.A woodland walk among a carpet of bluebells is an experience to delight all the senses – from the scent of the native bluebell to the crunch underfoot of old autumn leaves and birdsong up above. The Arlington Bluebell Walk has walks and activities which allow people of all ages and physical abilities to experience this stunning natural phenomenon.”
The fleeting beauty of the spring bluebells has inspired writers, such as the Bronte sisters, and artists for generations. Photographers are encouraged to capture the sea of blue in the annual Arlington Bluebell Walk Photographic Competition. The winner entry will be featured on the front of the 2015 attraction leaflet and entries from 2013 will be on display.
Artists can take part in the Paint Me a Bluebell competition and there is also a children’s quiz with prizes awarded by the National Farmers Union. The quizzes are based on the different colour coded walks.
Visitors can also learn more about dairy farming and get up close to farm animals with pens of pigs, angora goats, sheep and baby chicks. At neighbouring Parkwood Farm, the milking of the large herd can be seen from a special viewing gallery every afternoon between 3pm and 5pm.
The Bluebell Farm Shop which is normally open Fridays and Saturdays from 9.30pm to 5pm will be open every day the Bluebell Walk is open from 11.00am and is the main outlet for locally produced beef, lamb, chicken and fresh turkeys at Christmas all reared by John McCutchan’s son in law Michael Vine (formally from Ersham Farm in Hailsham)
The Farm Shop is a foodies’ paradise, stocked with a tastebud-tantalising selection of ingredients for a spectacular dish prepared with the minimum of food miles. Farmer’s wife Philippa Vine is a professional cook and food writer and has a passion for locally sourced quality ingredients. The shop will stock a mouthwatering range of homemade sausages, pies, tarts and delicious cakes. Quality essentials such as olive and flavoured oils, vinegars, spices, herbs, coffee, rice, pasta, pulses, flour and local free range eggs will also be available.
For those wanting the ultimate takeaway after their walk, Philippa offers a pre-order service, where countryside lovers can pick up tarts, cakes, casseroles, and pies after their visit.Philippa also offers cookery tuition in her farmhouse kitchen on a one to one basis, or with a friend.